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Experts raise alarm on number of SA children affected by heart disease

Around 11,000 children are born with congenital heart disease in South Africa every year.

Meagan and Michael Goliath pictured with their children Michan and Mikaela. Picture: Bertram Malgas/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Medical experts say they’re battling to keep up with the number of cases of congenital heart disease affecting children.

Around 11,000 children are born with congenital heart disease in South Africa every year.

Of these cases, at least 4,500 require surgery and at Cape Town’s Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital, doctors perform around 330 surgeries per year.

Meagan Goliath first realised something was wrong with her son Michan when he was just three months old.

He wasn’t growing like babies are supposed to. When he was 14-weeks-old, doctors at Tygerberg Hospital confirmed his heart was the problem. The right side of his heart had not developed fully, meaning he was surviving with three chambers instead of four.

Specialist surgeons at the Red Cross took over, starting a long journey towards repair and recovery.

“What we did is a series of operations to prepare him for the situation he is in at the moment, where we reroute his blood flow that normally goes to the heart and then to the lungs. We just put it straight into the lungs.”

Cardiologist Liesl Zühlke says Michan is seven and he’s able to do a little more to be a normal child with every month that passes.

The little boy told Eyewitness News he’s even allowed to play some sport now.

“My favourite sport is soccer. I like to do Mathematics at school. I want to become a famous soccer player.”

Michan’s story has a happy ending and the experts who have treated him hope his case will raise awareness about cardiovascular disease in South Africa.

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