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Photo Credit: Andreas Wohlfahrt from Pexels

The Maboneng Heart and Lung Institute at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital successfully performed a life-saving operation on eight-month-old Ashley Meerkotter, whose journey, marked by challenges and resilience, showcases the transformative power of collective efforts and unwavering support in overcoming medical adversities.


Johannesburg, South Africa (15 November 2023) – The Maboneng Heart and Lung Institute at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital has once again proven that miracles do happen, as they successfully executed a life-saving operation on eight-month-old Ashley Meerkotter.

This remarkable story of resilience and compassion shines a light on the power of community support and the dedicated efforts of medical professionals.

Ashley’s journey began when, at just three weeks old, she experienced a terrifying moment of breathlessness. Her parents, Adriaan and Elmarie Meerkotter, embarked on a challenging path of uncertainty as their daughter faced repeated episodes of halted breathing. The situation took a toll not only on their emotional well-being but also on their financial stability, with Adriaan losing his job in IT support. The Meerkotter family’s ordeal intensified when Ashley was diagnosed with ventricular septal defect (VSD), a significant hole in the heart wall. The public sector’s long waiting lists for specialized pediatric heart procedures posed a significant hurdle, compounded by the family’s inability to afford private healthcare.

The earliest surgery date available was slated for March 2024, further deepening their anxiety.

However, hope emerged when the Maboneng Foundation brought Ashley’s plight to the attention of the Netcare Foundation and Netcare Sunninghill Hospital. Mande Toubkin, Netcare’s general manager of trauma, transplant, and corporate social investment, emphasized the urgency of Ashley’s situation and facilitated the collaboration that would change her life. The Netcare Foundation, the charitable arm of the Netcare Group, stepped in to provide Ashley with the timely medical intervention she desperately needed. The Foundation’s commitment to enhancing access to quality healthcare and supporting various community initiatives played a pivotal role in ensuring that Ashley’s congenital heart defect could be addressed promptly.

Fixing a Brave Little Warrior's Heart: A Tale of Hope and Healing
Photo Cred: Netcare | Supplied

Dr. Erich Schürmann, cardiothoracic surgeon and co-founder of the Maboneng Heart and Lung Institute, highlighted the critical nature of Ashley’s surgery.

The procedure, performed pro bono by a team of dedicated medical professionals, aimed to prevent irreversible harm caused by the congenital heart defect. The anxiety-laden days leading up to the surgery turned into moments of hope and gratitude as Ashley’s parents, supported by each other, awaited the outcome.

The successful operation on October 6 marked the beginning of Ashley’s journey to recovery. The collaborative efforts of cardiothoracic surgeons Dr Schürmann and Dr Martin Myburgh, along with anaesthetist Dr Krishnee Naidoo and cardiac perfusionist Mr Mogotsi Mophosho, exemplify the selfless dedication of medical experts in the face of adversity.

Ashley’s remarkable progress was evident as she spent just three nights in the hospital before being discharged. Her parents, Adriaan and Elmarie, expressed profound gratitude to the surgical team, the caring ICU staff at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital, and the Netcare and Maboneng foundations for providing their daughter with a chance at a normal, healthy life.

As Ashley continues to thrive post-surgery, her laughter and playful demeanour bring joy to her family. The Meerkotter family’s story serves as an inspiring reminder that, with compassion, collaboration, and timely interventions, even the most challenging medical conditions can be overcome.

The heartening success of Ashley’s journey underscores the positive impact that collective efforts and steadfast support can have on the lives of those confronting medical challenges. It highlights the resilience of the human spirit and the transformative power of compassion in the face of adversity.

Fixing a Brave Little Warrior's Heart: A Tale of Hope and Healing
Photo Cred: Netcare | Supplied

Sources: Netcare
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Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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