Victory and Prevail at the Dame Irene Okwuosa Memorial Hospital in Oraifite, Nigeria
Seven-year-old Victory Ohiemi and four-year-old Prevail Adeyemi are best friends who have many things in common. They are both from Abuja, Nigeria, have infectious smiles, love to play with their siblings, enjoy drawing and coloring, and as of October 2023, they were both in desperate need of open-heart surgery. Victory was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF), a rare condition caused by a combination of four heart defects present at birth and typically corrected just after birth in the United States. Prevail was diagnosed with a ventricular septal defect (VSD), a heart defect due to an abnormal connection between the lower chambers of the heart. Their chance to receive surgery in Nigeria is 0.00006 percent if they can afford the procedure, and unfortunately neither family could afford the expense.
It was their good fortune that in October 2023, VOOM Foundation’s volunteer pediatric medical team was hosting a cost-free open-heart surgery mission at the Dame Irene Okwuosa Memorial Hospital in Oraifite, Nigeria. There were six children coming from Abuja’s Galwage Teaching Hospital, looking for solutions to their disease. The families were notified by the hospital to come and be evaluated for consideration. Victory, Prevail and their mom’s packed their bags and began the long journey to Oraifite, hoping for the opportunity to receive surgery.
Shannon, Ashley & Jeff
Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Jeff McNeil, accompanied by his wife Shannon, joined VOOM Foundation for his inaugural open-heart surgery mission to Nigeria in May of 2018. Although it was his first medical mission to Nigeria, it was not his first volunteer experience helping Nigerians with open-heart surgery.
It all began in 2017 when Jeff and Shannon agreed to host a young Nigerian boy named Purity, who needed life-saving open-heart surgery. Jeff initially helped Purity get accepted into the Austin, Texas-based non-profit HeartGift program. But to obtain his free surgery in the United States, young Purity and his mother would have to stay with a host family. Jeff and Shannon stepped forward. They opened their home and provided accommodations for Purity and his mother, Anita. They also accompanied Purity to doctor appointments and provided support throughout his two-month stay in the United States.
The McNeils would open their home once again for the HeartGift program in 2020, hosting their second Nigerian child in need and supporting the patient’s family.
Oluwande "Wande" Elam was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. She moved to the United States for college at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas where she graduated summa cum laude with her Bachelor's degree in international Studies and Spanish. She went on to Washington University in St. Louis School of Law where she completed her law degree on a full tuition scholarship. Wande spent the first ten years of her legal career as a corporate restructuring attorney at international and boutique law firms.
Subsequently, she joined the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, a U.S. Department of Defense entity providing goods and services to soldiers and airmen worldwide, where she served as Associate General Counsel in the Business Law department for three years. In October 2019, Wande joined Toyota Motor North America, Inc. in a newly created role as Senior Counsel for Toyota Connected North America, Inc., the startup at the heart of transforming Toyota to a mobility company through connected intelligence services. She was promoted to Managing Counsel in January 2022 and she continues to serve Toyota by providing advice and counsel to business units in a variety of global and cutting-edge transactions and projects.
September 2021, Lagos Nigeria - Hammed Afolabi, arrived unexpectantly at First Cardiology Hospital in Lagos, after hearing about VOOM Foundations partnership with the Healthy Heart Foundation/Nigeria to provide free open-heart surgery to patients in need. Hammed is a married indigent with three young children and runs a three-wheel bicycle to support his family. His job is the lifeline to his family’s success.
Victor Ogbonna, age 15, was on his way to a doctor’s appointment at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital in Enugu, Nigeria in May 2108. He was carrying his scans to be delivered to his neurologist as he is one of thousands of indigent children in charge of his own healthcare. He was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme, brain cancer and needed surgery following by radiation therapy.
Dr. Jeffrey McNeil, retired U.S. Colonel and cardiothoracic surgeon from Austin has accepted a position on the VOOM Foundation board of directors. Prior to his acceptance, Dr. McNeil attended two open-heart medical missions with VOOM Foundation, recruiting two medical teams while leading the VOOM education and training program at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital in Enugu.
VOOM Foundation recently signed memorandums of understanding with three teaching hospitals to deliver education and training to cardiac medical teams in Nigeria. The three institutions, The Univeristy of Nigeira Teaching Hospital in Enugu, Lagos State Teaching Hospital in Lagos and The University of Calabar Teaching Hospital in Calabar have all committed to partnering with VOOM who will provide the education and training during open-heart medical missions.
The Voom Foundation pediatric open-heart mission team from the United Kingdom has arrived in Enugu, Nigeria, and began surgery at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital. Led by pediatric heart surgeon, Dr. Ikenna Omeje, the volunteer team will work diligently throughout the week to address Nigeira’s sickest children.