Media Release – Albanian teenager kicking goals after heart surgery

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Six weeks ago 17 year old Ardit Pepa’s diseased heart made a simple walk difficult and exhausting. Now after heart surgery at Epworth Hospital he’s able to play soccer with friends.

On Friday 10 August Mr Andrew Cochrane performed an aortic valve replacement at Epworth Hospital in Richmond.

Weekly cardiac physiotherapy at Epworth has complimented the skills of the surgical team resulting in Ardit looking a picture of health. In fact he looks taller – although it’s probably because he’s standing straighter with no more heart strain and breathing is easier.

This was Ardit’s second heart operation in Australia. Australian charity, Children First Foundation brought him to Australia in 2003 when Professor Jim Wilkinson performed a catheter balloon aortic valvuloplasty at the Royal Children’s Hospital. At that time Dr Wilkinson predicted that Ardit would probably develop a recurrent aortic stenosis requiring further intervention.

This did occur and Ardit needed to return to Australia once more.

Such is the quality of surgery and health care in Australia – surgery that is not available in Albania – Ardit was taking short walks just days after his surgery.

Ardit will have his final physio session tomorrow – using cycle, treadmill and weights. But it’s the physical activity outdoors that makes the success of the surgery so obvious. Sport-mad Ardit has even mastered the art of kicking the ‘oval ball’ and is eagerly waiting to watch the AFL Grand Final on Saturday – disappointed his adopted Magpies won’t be playing.

Ardit is indebted to everyone involved in his care – Mr Andrew Cochrane and Epworth Hospital staff for their expert care which was provided free of charge, Edwards Life Sciences who donated the heart valve, and Children First principal supporter Emirates Airline who donated his return flight to Australia.

Ardit’s treatment, visa and transport were arranged by Children First and while in Australia he was cared for at the Children First Farm in Kilmore.