A Life-Changing Experience
How a pacemaker donation started Faan Botha's mission to support heart patients that can't afford cardiac treatment
Congestive Heart Failure is a common, costly, and potentially fatal condition affecting more than 64 million people globally. It is also the leading cause of both hospitalization and readmission amongst older adults. For some patients, a pacemaker can be the right treatment to feel better and return to daily life. However, in countries such as South Africa, insurance might not cover all the costs involved.
This leaves some patients, including South African farmer and Revived Pulse Foundation founder Faan Botha, with a seemingly insurmountable financial burden. On this year's World Health Day, we spoke with Botha about his personal experience and how a pacemaker donation changed his life forever.
What motivated you to establish the Revived Pulse Foundation?
In 2013, I received a second chance at life. I am a heart patient who understands how life-changing a pacemaker donation is. The gratitude I felt for this act of kindness led to the birth of the Revived Pulse Foundation in 2018. I want to do the same for cardiac patients in need. We want to help patients in their effort to stay alive. We want to help them prolong their lives with their loved ones, and let them know that there is life after heart problems.
Could you tell us more about the health care system in South Africa and the situation with cardiac diseases?
There is a trend: Cardiac diseases in South Africa are on the rise. Already today, Ischemic heart disease is one of the top causes of death in the country. However, only 17 in every 100 South Africans have medical insurance. As many as 45 million, or 82 out of every 100 South Africans, fall outside the medical aid net, and as a result are largely dependent on public healthcare.
When I was diagnosed with a chronic heart disease, I relied on a pacemaker donation myself. Now, I want to give back and help other patients in their effort to stay alive. With our work, I believe we create hope in the cardiac community.
How does the cardiac community perceive your work?
They are in awe. The cardiac doctors we are in contact with referred a few patients to us who did not have the funds to cover the costs of their much-needed pacemakers. I believe we create hope in the cardiac community.
How many people have you and your organization supported so far?
Revived Pulse Foundation has supported ten cardiac patients in need thus far. We are so grateful for the difference we made in these patient's lives.
Is there a patient you remember in particular?
I particularly remember Hans Dreyer. Hans Dreyer is one Revived Pulse patient who had to undergo an emergency pacemaker replacement. His heart functions at only 25 percent, meaning his pacemaker controls the majority of his heart rhythm. When the pacemaker isn’t working, his heart will stop beating. I remember him thanking us with the words: “This act of kindness changed my life forever. Sometimes we think that miracles do not happen anymore. I can honestly tell you today that it does exist.”
What are your organization’s future plans?
Our 10 year plan is to donate 100 pacemakers a year to cardiac patients in need. We want doctors and hospitals to be involved by then so we're not only able to donate pacemakers, but to donate the procedure and hospitalization expenses. This will only be possible when individuals as well as companies are willing to donate their services and devices. But for now, we are so grateful for every single individual or company who has supported us on this journey thus far. Without them, Revived Pulse Foundation could not have touched so many hearts.