KUALA LUMPUR: Melina Jokita, an orphan from Timor Leste, stepped out of the National Heart Institute (IJN) yesterday with a wide smile on her face after a successful operation.
The spunky girl was born with congenital atrial septial defect and a mitral valve leakage (hole in the heart) that left her suffering for years in Timor Leste.
Consultant cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Jeswant Dillon, who was on the operating team, said Melina suffered from a very rare condition and if left untreated, her life span would have been limited.
“The operation was successful and the results were good and she is recovering well,” he said.
The four-hour operation on Nov 21 was performed by chief cardiothoracic surgeon Datuk Dr Mohd Azhari Yakub, consultant anaesthesiologist Dr Ariffin Marzuki Mokhtar, consultant paediatric cardiologist Dr Geetha Kandavello and Dr Jeswant Dillon, all of whom are based at IJN.
Melina, 13, whose parents were killed in Timor Leste’s 1999 civil war, had been staying at an orphanage in Dili, the capital of Timor Leste.
In April 2006, she and six other orphans were treated by army doctors from Malacca’s Terendak Camp who were part of the Malaysian peacekeeping force.
They followed the Malaysian peacekeepers back here for medical treatment in February.
At first, Melina was treated at the Putra Specialist Hospital in Malacca. She checked into IJN in October for heart surgery.
Orphanage coordinator Lala Noronha expressed her gratitude to the Malaysians who contributed towards her surgery and post-operation recovery.
“It’s a miracle! If she was in Timor Leste, she wouldn’t have made it this far,” she said.
Yesterday, Melina was eager to express her appreciation.
“I wish to thank Aunty Marina and Ibu (Lala) for being with me all this while and the doctors and nurses of IJN and Putra Specialist Hospital, and everyone who has helped me.
“If I didn’t come here, I would be no more,” she added.
Melina left for Malacca yesterday, where her twin brother and friends are waiting for her, and hopes to start school next year.
Earlier, her plight was reported in The Star and Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir’s blog and some RM30,653 was raised for the operation.