23 January 2011
The renowned cardiac surgeon Sir Magdi Yacoub has become the most recent in a long line of distinguished characters world wide to receive the highest Egyptian honour: the Grand Order of the Nile. Earlier this month President Hosni Mubarak awarded Sir Magdi the medal in recognition of “his great contribution to the world of medicine”.
Sir Magdi was the guest of al-Mihwar satellite channel. Interviewed by Hanaa’ al-Semari, the great surgeon captivated viewers as much by his outstanding brilliance as by his touching modesty. Semari conducted the dialogue flawlessly, with wit and sensitivity, drawing out the characteristics of the great man and bringing them into focus. In celebration of the king of hearts and his new decoration, Watani International presents to its readers excerpts of that remarkable interview.
The Aswan Heart Centre
“Civil society and private donations both should play a considerable role in the development of scientific research”, Sir Magdi said. “Positive interaction is needed on the part of the State, NGOs and scientific organisations for the benefit of humanity.”
Sir Magdi’s Chain of Hope is a non-profit organisation that collects some GBP100,000 yearly to be allocated for scientific research in the field of cardiovascular diseases and surgery. In the West, he said, many of the wealthy donate part of their wealth for scientific research. “Most of what the Aswan Heart Centre (AHC) has reached today was made possible through a civil organisation that collects donations to finance the AHC. Our goal is to make the AHC among the greatest heart centres in the world.”
“We chose Aswan for many reasons,” Sir Magdi explained. Most importantly it enjoys a pure, pollution-free climate. The centre has proved to be a haven of hope for many people, children or needy, who come to Aswan from far away, bearing the burden and expense of travel, for the sake of treatment.
“In Aswan we were very warmly greeted by the Medical School there, whose administration allocated for us a building to act as a nucleus for the nascent AHC. We are still constantly developing the AHC; we now have an advanced operating theatre fully-equipped with state-of-the art facilities.
“Our dream is to establish a research centre and where our young doctors can train and exchange information with the topmost centres in the world.”
Future Magdi Yacoubs
“So can we expect to see other Magdi Yacoubs in the future?” Semary asked. “There will definitely be others who are even better than me”, he replied; “the young Egyptian doctors who work with me at the AHC are all brilliant and work with a passion. They care for their patients, and help those who are needy. More importantly, they try to remain updated on the latest scientific and technological advances in the field of cardiac disease.”
Sir Magdi mentioned the considerable reforms conducted by the Egyptian Minister of Health and his staunch support of the AHC. Aswan, he said, will shortly host an international convention on the congenital diseases that affect the heart.
Sir Magdi talked about the heart. As if talking about a dear friend, he said: “The heart functions inside the human body since before birth and until the death. It does not often complain, yet we do not give it much attention and we sometimes go far as to mistreat it. It functions in a complex yet harmonious manner. Sometimes one only realises it has become fatigued long after it has already incurred major damages.”
“We know now”, Sir Magdi said, “what hurts the heart and makes it sick.” Some things especially can and should be avoided, such as smoking and stress. Hard work does not hurt the heart, he said; it does not cause heart failure, but unhealthy food, grief and despair may all lead to heart failure and to death.”
“Does pollution affect the heart?” Semari asked. “Of course it does. It increases the heart’s problems and affects the quantity of blood that the heart pumps into the human body.
“Pollution is not a non-conquerable problem,” Sir Magdi said. “A quick look at how a city like London, which was for ages notorious for its smog, was able to wipe it out, proves that where there’s a will there’s a way.”
What are Sir Magdi’s priorities in life? “I am a servant to two things in life, my patients, all of them: the young and old, rich and poor; and scientific research, without which no progress can ever be achieved.”
Sir Magdi’s patients feel his dedication and reciprocate with warmth and heart-felt gratitude. It is not for nothing that they have called him the “King of hearts”: not only for his ability to cure ailing hearts but also for his heart so full of selfless, unconditional love and compassion for everyone who crosses his path.