Dr Shailesh Khatri is one of a team of medical experts fighting to save a flood of patients with heart disease.
Dr Shailesh Khatri is one of a team of medical experts fighting to save a flood of patients with heart disease. Blainey Woodham

Surgeon with Fiji at heart

IN A world that seems to be becoming more and more heartless, there is a man, a surgeon, philosopher and Good Samaritan of the medical world who is quietly achieving great things for the vulnerable and sick at heart.

Dr Shailesh Khatri is a cardiac surgeon with a big heart.

Based at John Flynn Hospital in Tugun, Dr Khatri has joined fellow medical specialists to save the lives of Australians and the people of his native land, Fiji, who have been struck with heart disease.

Together with cardiac surgeons Dr Ian Linton and Dr David Cody, he embarked on a project to tackle the Fijian cardiac mortality rate some years ago.

These surgeons have given their time to address a frightening trend in Fiji that sees people as young as 30 years suffering and dying of massive heart attacks due to blocked arteries.

"I feel like my work has only just begun," Dr Khatri told the Daily News.

"There is much to be done."

Yet he has been instrumental in securing a new lab in Fiji where angiograms can be performed to help reduce the incidence of death from cardiac disease.

"People dying at any age from a heart attack is undesirable," he said.

"But for those as young as their 30s and 40s it is unacceptable."

Dr Khatri deals with heart disease at the end of the line, but is a huge proponent of heart disease prevention.

"Intervention is probably the most crucial factor in preventing death due to heart disease," he said.

He believes the Fijian heart crisis is a double-edged sword that sees Fijians benefit from western technology, while a western diet and genetic disposition causes a drastic cut in the Fijian population due to heart disease.

When asked what inspired the compassionate heart surgeon to launch into a campaign to save lives in Fiji, he said he had seen too many young people die unnecessarily of heart disease.

"That makes it very personal and makes me want to do something and give something back to my fellow humans."

It has taken many years, but Dr Khatri and his colleagues have seen some of their dreams come to fruition.

With the help of donated equipment and the support of the Fijian Government they can now treat patients in Fiji, instead of bringing them to Australia.

"It has taken years to get to this stage," Dr Khatri said.

"But we are getting there and it gives me a real sense of purpose and satisfaction."



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