Interview with Afksentios Kalangos
“What we do is that we give lives, new lives”
Having the vision of an international hospital where children suffering from cardiac diseases would be treated free of charge, Afksentios Kalangos has already changed the lives of more than 17,000 children around the world.
Dr. Afksentios Kalangas recently moved to Greece with the aim to support the country and its patients in difficult times, with special support programs and charitable costs or even free of charge. We had an opportunity to speak with him and learn more about his mission and goals.
Q.You have changed the lives of more than 17,000 children around the world. When and where was your last mission?
Our last mission was in northern China, in Yinchuan Province, where the Kalangos Foundation organized three educational missions. With my team of Greek and Ukrainian doctors, we did over thirty operations on very difficult cases and were able to train Chinese cardiac surgeons, anesthesiologists, oncologists and nurses.
This program was part of a major collaboration between the regional hospital and the university and gave the hospital medical staff the opportunity to learn new techniques and to become familiar with western medical protocols and practices.
For my team it was yet another opportunity to work closely with doctors and nursing staff from another medical culture and thus enrich its flexibility and ability to operate in different cultural settings.
Q.What do you see as the most powerful moment in your career?
Every child is special to me, has its own life, its own story. Every child is a very special moment for me. I remember a fourteen-year-old girl from Ukraine two years ago. Daniela, with a very advanced form of congenital heart disease, so severe that her lips were almost blue as her heart failed to provide her with the necessary oxygen. When she was walking she had to stop every three or four meters to get a breath. The Kalangos Foundation found the money immediately, and we arranged to bring her to Greece for the operation. A year later, we brought her to Greece for some tests. Daniela and her father managed to climb the Acropolis without any difficulty. Her father said he had tears in her eyes. A year before he couldn’t think his daughter would live a life like any other child of her age.
What we do is that we give lives, new lives. For my team and for me, this is something I can hardly describe…
Q.What made you move to Greece?
In Greece, 800 to 1,000 children with congenital heart diseases are born each year, with one third of them (mainly newborns) needing immediate surgery. As you can see, these numbers are large and our project aspires to meet as many needs as possible. With three dimensions: Charity, that is, the pooling of resources that can cover the costs of operations so that families bear the least possible (if any) cost. Care, that is, disease detection and treatment and finally medical education.
The main reason I decided to move to Greece was and remains to support Greece and the patients as much as I can in this difficult time for most Greeks. Access to health is an inalienable right and must be safeguarded in every way possible. I decided to relocate my family here to Greece and spend most of my time here, in order to support Greek patients as much as I can with special patient support programs and with charitable costs or even free of charge, depending on their financial opportunities. At the same time, I am also trying to support the strengthening of medical education, so that our medical staff continues to be one of the best in the world.
Q.Tell us about the Kalangos Foundation and its main goals.
“Kalangos Foundation” is a not profit organization with headquarters and legal entities in Switzerland and Turkey, aiming at assisting children in developing countries suffering from cardiac diseases. Our mission is to make the screening of children suffering from cardiac diseases, to treat them in cardiac facilities and to set up educational networks in order to promote medical education and training in cardiology and cardiac surgery. Since its creation in 2000, “Kalangos Foundation” has treated children in 25 developing countries and trained more than 100 health professionals in cardiac surgery in these countries.
“Kalangos Foundation” is closely collaborating with the “Global Heart Network” (GHN), a worldwide humanitarian medical network that gives access to cardiac care for children of developing countries and coordinates all the humanitarian aspects of cardiac surgery and facilities in developing countries.
In Greece, Kalangos Foundation has founded the humanitarian association “Hearts for All-Greece”, a non-profit organization operating under the umbrella of the Foundation.
“Hearts for All” is of particular importance to me, because it is the organization that has so far enabled over 100 children in Greece to start a new life, proving every day that there are still many Greeks Greeks who voluntarily offer their time, their knowledge and their energy for their fellow humans. Doctors, nurses and volunteers come together to help children suffering from congenital diseases and their families.
Q.How can someone contribute to the Foundation and your goals?
The best way to help our activities is to contact our secretary general, Evangelos Areteos (firstname.lastname@example.org) who can explain the current needs of our Foundation and orientate the donors.
Q.In a previous interview, you mentioned that you want to establish an international children hospital. How close are you to this?
This is indeed our wider vision for the future: An international hospital where children suffering from cardiac diseases would be treated free of charge while it would promote scientific research and medical education / training for medical personnel, mainly from developing countries. We have elaborated the plans for such a hospital and we are currently in search of significant donors.