“I have already been interested in congenital heart disease for many years, because I have always been fascinated by the unlimited operation of this engine, source of life.
40 years ago there were still no surgical solutions to cure all the defects and exact diagnoses were limited: very often we were only able to care for and not cure children with complex cardiac diseases until their death, even in our developed countries.
I will never forget the first time I went to France for a training update in 1970... In the hospital where I was working, which was one of the best in Europe, out of every 50 new-borns operated on, only 3 managed to survive the operation. My teachers, my colleagues and all of us were filled with so much insecurity and despondency! We feared that the problem of congenital heart disease had no viable solution.
Moments of pessimism and frustration followed. However, periods of great determination, intense work and continuous research resulted in the identification of new solutions and experimental treatments. And so the foundations of modern paediatric cardiac surgery were put in place, a discipline that has changed the history of medicine, saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of children and achieving in recent years the significant goal of a mortality rate threshold of less than 5%.
These figures, however, change dramatically in developing countries, due to the lack of centres and doctors specialising in this discipline: here the mortality rate for congenital heart disease is close to 90%, especially in complex cases. It is for this reason that I decided to continue my task in the fight against heart disease, providing my experience, passion and the sacrifice of these years of work: so began my long journey in international collaboration.”
prof. Alessandro Frigiola