Christmas Comes Early with Heart Op for Baby Leago
Heart2Heart recipient, baby Leago Mogale. His mother Reabetswe Mogale and staff nurse Nankanyiso Mbwena. Photo Cred: Netcare

Just over a month before his first birthday on 17 December, Leago became the latest beneficiary of the Heart-to-Heart campaign with a specialised procedure performed at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital in Johannesburg.


Johannesburg, South Africa (09 December 2021) – A baby boy is home and ready to celebrate his first birthday and second Christmas, after healthcare companies and top medical specialists recently teamed up to provide a much-needed operation to repair two holes in his heart.

“Leago’s name means ‘building a future’. He loves playing with anything that makes a noise or lights up, I think he might grow up to be a sound engineer one day. But when doctors first picked up that he had a heart murmur just over a year ago, when Leago was less than a week old, we were so worried about what the future may hold for him,” says his mother, Reabetswe Mogale.

Just over a month before his first birthday on 17 December, Leago became the latest beneficiary of the Heart-to-Heart campaign with a specialised procedure performed at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital in Johannesburg. This is a corporate social investment match funding challenge between the Netcare Foundation and Medipost Holdings for life-saving operations for children with life-threatening heart conditions. 

Cause for celebration after an anxious year

“It has been an emotional year for our family, but this Christmas we are celebrating that our baby’s heart defect has been corrected,” Reabetswe, who lives in Atteridgeville, says. 

“Although Leago was an alert and active baby, he did not gain weight as a healthy child should, and his mother noticed that he perspired a lot whenever he was feeding. After Leago’s heart murmur was diagnosed, he was referred to Steve Biko Academic Hospital and was prescribed medication for six months,” says cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Erich Schürmann of the Maboneng Heart and Lung Institute at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital.

Leago’s anxious parents learned that the holes in their baby son’s heart were not closing, and the condition, known as ventricular septal defect (VSD), was placing extra strain on Leago’s heart and the arteries supplying blood to his lungs. This was causing progressive damage over time.

“It was such a big shock to us as parents to learn our baby was in heart failure and needed this operation as soon as possible. As a parent, you can’t imagine this is happening to your child,” says Leago’s father, Thando Qolo.

Teaming up for Leago

“The care team at Steve Biko Academic Hospital advised us that there is a long waiting list for such specialised procedures, but there was a chance that could make it possible for Leago to have the procedure sooner through private sector assistance,” he says.

“When Leago was referred to us, we were determined to find a way to help him before the damage could progress further. His heart had a left to right shunt, increasing the blood flow to his lungs. This in turn leads to failure to thrive, recurrent lower respiratory tract infections and over time can lead to irreversible lung damage, so we had no time to lose,” Dr Schürmann adds. 

A year of lifesaving procedures

“A year ago, the Heart-to-Heart campaign was initiated when the Netcare Foundation matched Medipost Holdings’ corporate social investment donation to provide financial support to enable children born with congenital heart defects, such as Leago, to have these life-saving procedures,” says Rentia Myburgh, group director of sales and marketing for Medipost Holdings, comprising Medipost Pharmacy, Kawari Wholesaler and Distributers, MediLogistics and the MediTraining Academy.

The procedures are co-ordinated by the Maboneng Foundation, a non-profit organisation that raises funds for children to receive the operations as early as possible through the world-class cardiothoracic centre at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital.

Cardiothoracic surgeons Dr Schürmann and Dr Hendrick Mamorare of the Maboneng Heart and Lung Institute, paediatric cardiologist Dr Greenwood Sinyangwe who practises at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital, as well as anaesthetist Dr Krishnee Naidoo and cardiac perfusionist Mogotsi Mophosho generously committed their time and expertise pro bono to help Leago.

The gift that keeps on giving

“Now that our son is recovered from the operation, he has been waking up early in the mornings, and he just can’t wait to start running and playing every day,” his relieved mother says. 

“We are so thankful to the amazing team of specialists and nurses who cared for our baby so well and the organisations that have given him the chance to live a full, normal life. Having our son at home and out of danger is the best Christmas present we could have wished for,” adds Leago’s father, Thando.

“It means a great deal to us at the Netcare Foundation to have been part of making this procedure possible for Leago before the year was out. We wish this brave baby boy a very happy first birthday and a bright future ahead in whatever he sets his mind to,” concludes Mande Toubkin, Netcare’s Group director of trauma, transplant and CSI.

For more information about the Maboneng Foundation, which coordinates sponsorship of the procedures, or to make a donation please visit 

Sources: National Institute for Communicable Diseases | COVID-19
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