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Thousands raised for children’s hospital in memory of doctor’s dad

Pictured: Members of staff on the sponsored walk.

A family connection inspired a Swansea Bay team to raise thousands of pounds for a children’s centre in India.

The Charles Pinto Centre in Thrissur in the southern state of Kerala, treats children with craniofacial birth defects.

It was founded in 1990 by Dr Hirji Adenwalla – whose son Dr Firdaus Adenwalla is consultant physician with the Neath Port Talbot Acute Clinical Team (ACT).

Pictured: Dr Hirji Adenwalla.

During his career of around 60 years, Dr Hirji Adenwalla performed more than 21,000 cleft lip and palate repair surgeries, right up until the age of 88.

He was still operating until six months before he passed away in 2020.

That was when the ACT team, which provides urgent nursing and medical care in the community, became inspired to fundraise in his memory.

“I was very touched by the gesture, as were my family,” said son Firdaus.

“In 1958, my father and mother set up home in the grounds of a small 20-bedded mission hospital in south India, the Jubilee Mission Hospital.

“My dad wanted to provide good and safe healthcare for those who could least afford it.

“Initially he had to take on a range of surgical problems, from fixing fractures to delivering babies and everything in-between. But his passion was always treating facial birth defects in children, with cleft lip and palate being the most common.

“As the hospital grew and developed and gained other specialists, he focused more on congenital facial deformities and founded a multidisciplinary unit, the Charles Pinto Centre for congenital craniofacial defects. It was named after his mentor and teacher.

“He was still at the hospital 60 years later to see it become a 1,500-bed medical-college hospital.”

Securing funds to be able to perform the procedures at no cost to the patient became very difficult for Dr Adenwalla.

But in 2000, the Charles Pinto Centre became the first in India to partner with Smile Train, an international charity providing surgery for children with congenital birth defects.

Firdaus added: “After that there was no looking back because money wasn’t a problem so my dad and his team could undertake any number of surgeries.

“The department became one of India’s leading training centres attracting students and doctors from across the world.

“When he first started operating on cleft lips and palates he was often operating on teenagers.

“But towards the end of his career, you rarely saw anyone older than three or four years with a deformity because they were able to come for surgery as it was free.

“He was working until he was 88 and was operating until six months before he passed away.

“He was very passionate and dedicated to his work and had an extremely busy work schedule but still found time for his family.”

The ACT team decided they wanted to donate money to the centre via Smile Train in memory of Dr Adenwalla and initially set themselves a target of £1,000.

Staff from the ACT and Afan Nedd Day Unit, along with family and friends, took on a sponsored walk. The route started at Cimla Health and Social Care Centre – where the team is based – eventually heading along the canal footpath before finishing at Neath Abbey ruins.

They also hosted a cake sale and a curry night at an Indian restaurant, which featured raffles and an auction.

Sarah Kelly, a nurse practitioner within the team, had the idea to raise money for the centre after hearing about Dr Adenwalla’s work.

She said: “It was very inspiring. When I got home I went online and read up on it a bit more and I had the idea to raise money for the centre.

“I thought it would be a nice thing to do for the centre but also as a bit of a thank you to our Dr Adenwalla for what he does for the team.

“Everyone came together as a team and it was a good morale boost for us as well. It was a wonderful thing to do.

“Dr Adenwalla’s mother, Gulnar, was here at the time and was able to be at the start and end of the walk which made the day special.

“We originally had £1,000 as our goal but we ended up raising £5,333 for the centre in Dr Hirji Adenwalla’s name.”

The money raised by the team and colleagues will be donated to the Charles Pinto Centre within the Jubilee Mission Hospital.