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June 16, 2017

Bike ride to help 'Little Hearts'
Big hearts Big hearts ride to heal 'Little Hearts' Ishara Jayawardane (dailynews.lk) Interventional Cardiologist at Guy's and St. homas' Hospital, Dr. Divaka Perera, Professor of Cardiology at King's College London, Prof. Michael Marber and Interventional Cardiologist at Royal Bournemouth Hospital, Dr. Peter O'Kane are part of a 5-man team who will cycle across the length of Sri Lanka in June, to raise funds for 'Little Hearts' - a charitable initiative of the Sri Lanka College of Paediatricians and the British Heart Foundation (BHF). Daily News speaks to Dr. Divaka Perera on this noble endeavour. "We will be cycling 750km from Dondra lighthouse to Point Pedro lighthouse via the East Coast, starting on June 11th. This will be quite a challenge as none of us are regular long distance cyclists. I got myself a bicycle about eight months ago, to train for this event. Although we have all been training hard for this, during evenings after work and weekends when we aren't on call, the distance we have to cover in eight days along with the fact that we have not ever done this in the heat and humidity we will face during the ride, will make it quite a challenge," said Dr. Perera. The doctors are doing this to raise funds for two charities who deal with different but complementary aspects of improving the health of children and adults who suffer from heart disease.

The charities are LittleHearts in Sri Lanka and the British Heart Foundation, the main funder of cardiovascular research in the UK "Our donors have been incredibly generous. So far, we have raised approximately Rs. 2.8 million in total (from around 110 individual donations), Rs 1.8 million of which has been to Little Hearts. Through more donations and hopefully some corporate sponsorship too, we hope to increase this by a significant amount in the next few days and weeks. I should point out that all funds go directly to the charities and any costs related to the ride itself and fundraising activities are being borne by the members of the Cardiac Cycle Lanka team," pointed out Dr. Perera.

'Little Hearts' is a project that is overseen by the Sri Lanka College of Paediatricians. "It is an ambitious but unquestionably worthwhile project, which seeks to address a massive gap in Sri Lankan healthcare at the moment, and the ability to provide potentially life-saving specialist treatment to critically ill children with heart disease, in a timely manner. The goal is to build a new state of the art unit on the Lady Ridgeway Hospital grounds (Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children (LRH) is the only tertiary care referral center in Sri Lanka for children born with a heart problem and other critical illnesses.) While the overall cost is daunting (estimated at Rs 2 Billion) there is a government pledge to donate a substantial amount of these costs if the rest can be raised via charitable initiatives such as Cardiac Cycle Lanka. More than Rs. 130 million has been raised already and I hope we can make a small but meaningful contribution to this," explained Dr. Perera The Sri Lanka Heart association is a strong supporter of Little Hearts. It has played an important role by endorsing the project and even helping with fund-raising. "President of SLHA, Dr. Nimali Fernando, has kindly allocated space on the programme of the SLHA annual academic meeting, to allow us to launch this charity event on Saturday June 10th.

Three of the members of the Cardiac Cycle Lanka team - Prof. Marber and Dr. O'Kane and I, will also be delivering lectures at the SLHA conference on Saturday morning, before the launch. Following the launch, the team and supporters will ride the first mile of the journey (from Galadari hotel to Galle Face hotel) at about 1.30 pm on June 11th. Anyone wishing to ride (or just show support by being there) is welcome," added Dr. Perera. This project is something that is very personal and meaningful to Dr. Perera.

"I am an academic interventional cardiologist and spend half my week treating patients and the other half, heading an academic team who carry out research into a variety of cardiological problems. Both causes we are supporting are very close to my heart. Furthermore, it is a fantastic chance to help to fill this major unmet need in the country in which I was born, schooled and first cycled in," said Dr. Perera. "In addition to drawing attention to Little Hearts and the issues that apply to critically ill children in the country, this is a chance for all of us to experience this amazing country in a way none of us have done before, even those who have spent some or all of their lives in Sri Lanka," said Dr. Perera, excitedly.

This compassionate project does not end here. "I hope that I will be able to continue to work with the Chairperson of the Little Hearts project, Consultant Paediatric Cardiologist Dr. Duminda Samarasinghe, and the others running Little Hearts even after we complete the charity ride, and see the project through to its conclusion. I have worked very closely with Duminda on this during the past few months and have been inspired by his dedication to the cause. I look forward to the day when I can return to Colombo for the opening of the Little Hearts unit. I hope that anyone reading this article will, by now, be convinced of the worthiness of this project. If you are able to donate any funds to this cause (any amount, small or large is most appreciated) or simply want to learn more about the project an the two charities we are supporting, please visit www.CardiacCycleL anka.com," summed up Dr. Divaka.
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