Jaffna Youth Cycle to Save a Heart

25 Aug 2014

At 7AM on the 15th of August 2014, sixty Jaffna university students set off from their campus to Colombo in bicycles. This was no ordinary backpacking group of youth. They were embarking on an exhaustive journey for the benefit of those living in the North and North Eastern Provinces. Under the title of “Cycle for Life,” the students cycled 400+ kilometres to raise funds for the Oxonian Heart Foundation (OHF) – a charity that is working to establish cardiac care in the Northern Province and the surrounding areas.

From Jaffna, the cyclists travelled a total of 140 kilometres to Vavuniya, where they spent the 15th night and subsequently on the 16th set off to Kurunegala, which was another 181 kilometres away. After spending the 16th night in Kurunegala, the cyclists travelled another 93 kilometres to the finish point at the Royal College Skills Centre. The cyclists were accompanied by a support team of 60 odd persons, assigned with the task of looking after the wellbeing of the students and promoting awareness of the cause that they were cycling for. The event was brought to a conclusion with a media briefing held at the Royal College Skills Centre.

Commenting on the monumental feat, Pratheesh Meswaran the chief coordinator of the cyclists claimed that “the effort that was put into the event was well worth it when one sees the unnecessary suffering that cardiac patients in the Northern Province go through due to the inability to gain access to the necessary cardiac treatment.” He continued that “cardiac patients in the North had to incur additional costs as a result of expenses related to travelling, accommodation and meals.” The gathering was also informed as to how such a journey poses significant health risks for the patient.  

Dr. Ravi Perumalpillai elaborated on the prevalence of cardiac disease in the Northern Province and the lack of facilities in the area claiming, “cardiac disease is a major cause of death, particularly in young males, with an estimated 800 patients per annum requiring cardiac surgery. Out of the 800 patients, up to 200 -250 patients are annually referred to Colombo or Kandy.”

OHF plans to introduce cardiac care to the North and surrounding regions by partnering with the North Central Hospital (NCH). NCH is a modern hospital located in Thirunalvely, near the University of Jaffna campus.  The hospital has pledged to contribute its facilities. The OHF will finance a support team from Oxford University for training and monitoring, purchase specialist cardiac equipment and allocate USD 300,000 to treat destitute patients during the first year. The first round of surgeries commenced on the 6th of July. Having already raised USD 600,000, OHF is looking for an additional 1.4 million USD to complete their mission.