2015 Medtronic Bakken Invitation Awards Announced
Dr Thomas Okello, Kampala, Uganda
The 2015 Medtronic Bakken Invitation Awards were recently announced. Twelve people representing eleven countries were honored with the 2015 Bakken Invitation Award, which recognizes people who have overcome health challenges with the help of medical technology and are making outstanding contributions of service, volunteerism and leadership. Each year, selected Honorees are awarded a grant from Medtronic Philanthropy to direct to a charity of their choice.
Amongst the 12 people named as Bakken Invitation Honorees for 2015 were Dr Thomas Okello from Uganda and Bhim Mahat from Nepal, both of whom were diagnosed with and live with rheumatic heart disease (RHD). They are both strong advocates for rheumatic heart disease control and awareness in their countries.
At just 16 years old, Thomas Okello received a double valve replacement as a result of severe RHD. Many of his fellow Ugandans with RHD, however do not receive this treatment. Thomas, who is now a cardiologist, began working with the Uganda Rheumatic Heart Disease Registry at the Uganda Heart Institute to raise awareness about RHD and inspire others to take care of their hearts. With the patient support branch of the Uganda Heart Institute, Thomas encourages people living with RHD to visit their physicians regularly and take the medication they need to live a healthy life.
“I have rheumatic heart disease and had a double valve replacement. Because I have metal valves, I have to regularly take Coumadin. That requires a lot of attention and it has made me look out for other patients with a similar condition. My treatment was a miracle and allows me to live a healthy, normal life. I want others to have this type of access to care."
“Because I consider myself lucky, I offer myself to my community. I hope to bring awareness to others with rheumatic heart disease and use my condition as an example. I encourage other patients to take the medicine they need and visit their doctors regularly in order to live a healthy life." ~ Dr Thomas Okello
Bhim Mahat was diagnosed with RHD and had open heart surgery to replace a damaged aortic valve in 1992. Immediately after his surgery, he became a lifetime member of the Nepal Heart Federation and began working to help others with the same condition. As a social worker, Bhim is passionate about educating children. In his role with the Nepal Heart Federation, Bhim volunteers to raise awareness of RHD and prevention measures by coordinating education programs in schools.