Stories of Impact

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Free Open-Heart Surgery Saves Lives In Nigeria: Tony’s Story


[Tony before and after receiving the open-heart surgery that likely saved his life.]

The chest pain came during a workout.  

  Tony is an educator at a local university in Nigeria. He is a father to two children, both under the age of five, and a husband to a nurse—the same nurse who urged him to visit the hospital. He is also one of the approximate 520 million people worldwide who suffer from cardiovascular disease.  

  In 2021, Doctors diagnosed Tony with acute coronary syndrome, a condition caused by a lack of blood flow to the heart which can result in unstable chest pain and heart attacks. Tony’s doctor prescribed him high blood pressure medication, but his condition only worsened. It wasn’t long before he had difficulty picking up pick up his children without experiencing radiating pain in his chest and arm.

Tony needed open-heart surgery to address his acute coronary syndrome but could not afford the 6 million Naira ($12,000) cost. He works for the government but had not received a paycheck in several months. Despite encountering financial barriers in the past, Tony always found a way to provide for his family. He decided to ask for a loan from the bank, but without a stable income, was denied.

It was Tony’s friend who had told him about the Vincent Obioma Ohaju Memorial (VOOM) Foundation, a nonprofit organization that brings a team of cardiothoracic surgeons to Nigeria biannually to perform heart surgeries at no cost to patients. The foundation formed as a way to address the financial and educational barriers that prevent tens of thousands of Nigerians each from receiving the open heart surgeries they need to survive.

Funding and pharmaceuticals from Brother’s Brother Foundation supported the VOOM Foundation’s most recent medical trip to Nigeria in May. In addition to performing heart surgeries on over a dozen patients, VOOM surgeons also trained two Nigerian cardiothoracic surgeons to help expand the nation’s existing cardiology services.

Tony underwent surgery for a coronary artery bypass graft on May 16 at Dame Irene Okwuosa Memorial Hospital in Oraifite, Nigeria. Within 18 hours, he was able to walk. Doctors expect him to make a full recovery.

Brother’s Brother Foundation also supported a trip the VOOM Foundation took to Nigeria in the fall of 2022, where doctors saw 250 patients and performed 25 open-heart surgeries.