Windhoek-It was on a Wednesday morning when the New Era team met Dr Simon Beshir, the man who has been repairing broken hearts in Namibia for the last six years.
After waiting for about 15 minutes, Beshir met us in the operating theatre at the Heart Centre at the Roman Catholic Hospital, where he was seeing patients.
With a smile on his face, Beshir introduced himself to us by his first name, Simon.
“This is where we fix broken hearts. You’re welcome, ne. It is a little busier than usual,” he said, before introducing us to his team.
Beshir and his team took us through their daily tasks, before allowing us to witness two cardiac procedures on patients – with their permission.
“It is important that you understand so that you report accurately, ne,” he told us.
“I have been practising medicine ever since I completed my studies at the Charles University in Prague in 1989,” said Beshir.
Growing up exposed to literature as a child, Beshir, who was born by a Czech mother and Sudanese father, never wanted to be a doctor.
“I read books about nature, animals, and far away countries. I wanted to do a job that would allow me to travel such as being a pilot, a diplomat or a journalist,” he explained.
However, with the advice of his mother, Beshir ended up doing medicine.
After completing his internship and core medical training, he specialised in internal medicine and cardiology and practised medicine in the Czech Republic.
“In 1998, I decided to accept an offer from Botswana to run the Intensive Care Unit at Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone,” explained Beshir.
After three years, he left Botswana for Nigeria to set up a cardiac centre, which is today known as the Reddington Hospital in Lagos.
In 2003, Beshir decided to specialise in interventional cardiology at Nottingham, United Kingdom.
In 2007, he accepted an offer to work as a consultant cardiologist at Kings Mill Hospital near Nottingham in the United Kingdom.
“In 2012, I discovered Namibia and decided to dump my consultant post in the UK and to develop heart services in this beautiful country,” said Beshir.
Although he has been involved with heart patients since he started practising internal medicine in 1995, Beshir became a “pure cardiologist” in 2003.
“I have been in the trade (cardiology) for 15 years now and I am still learning, discovering secrets, trying to keep up with the fast developments in heart medicine,” he added.
In Namibia, Beshir has been active at both the Windhoek Central and Roman Catholic hospitals as a cardiologist. He does cardiac procedures such as implanting stents and pacemakers.
A stent is a small mesh tube that is used to treat narrow or weak arteries. A stent is placed in an artery as part of a procedure called percutaneous coronary intervention, which is also known as coronary angioplasty.
A pacemaker is a small device that is placed under the skin of a patient’s chest or abdomen to help control abnormal heart rhythms. This device uses electrical pulses to prompt the heart to beat at a normal rate. Pacemakers are used to treat heart rhythms that are too slow, fast, or irregular.
Together with his teams, Beshir does more than 1,500 cardiac procedures a year.
“The nurses, radiographers and cardiac physiologists that I work with are top people. They are well trained, dedicated and knowledgeable. That’s why we have good results,” he stated.
From 2012 until recently, Beshir has been the only permanent cardiologist in the country. “Prior to my arrival, cardiac patients had to go to South Africa for the specialised heart procedures,” he added.
The cardiac units at Windhoek Central and the Roman Catholic hospitals were established by the Ministry of Health and Social Services, and by heart surgeons Dr Rossouw and Dr Du Toit, long before 2012.
However, because there was no permanent cardiologist, the services were not developed, explained Beshir.
Today, things are different. “Patients can have their heart operations and procedures done safely in Namibia. Several Namibian doctors have been trained in heart medicine and heart surgery and soon the first Namibian cardiologists will come back from South Africa where they are completing their training,” added Beshir.
In Namibia, there are very few cardiac complications compared to hospitals in South Africa or even in Europe, where he has worked before, stated Beshir.
“So every morning I actually look forward to do more good work with those people. It makes me proud to know that such a service is provided in Namibia and that I am part of it,” he stated.
However, things are not always good, he admits. “We don’t win every time. There are patients whose hearts are so damaged that it is difficult or impossible to improve them or to save them. That’s the sad part. But that’s the story of any doctor. Just like with anything in life, sometimes we have to let go,” he said sadly.
To reduce the chances of getting heart disease, Beshir stressed the importance of a healthy diet and physical activity.
“As individuals, we should move our bodies through exercise. We should drink lots of water and eat less of the bad stuff, especially processed food and sugars such as sweets, fruit juices and cool drinks,” advised Beshir.