A LIFE-saving mission 4,800 miles away from the North-East has seen surgeons, cardiologists, intensive care practitioners, anaesthetists and a heart bypass technician operate overseas.

Consultants from the heart and lung surgery team at The James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, led the team to Ghana, West Africa, to work in the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital.

The group gave up their holidays to visit the Ghanaian hospital that has recently appointed its own cardiac surgeon but has no kit and lots of patients – many who are young adults – who need life-saving operations.

Vital kit had to be sent out to Ghana ahead of the trip, and the team of 12 had to work with limited resources and electrical issues that would never be an issue back home. Despite this they successfully performed nine operations.

Cardiothoracic surgeon Enoch Akowuah, who was born in Ghana, was instrumental in launching the initiative and said doing his first operation in Ghana was the stuff of dreams.

He said: “It was a fantastic experience for the whole team.

"It was such a privilege to work alongside our Ghanaian colleagues – we learnt so much from them about working in challenging circumstances with minimum resources."

Cardiothoracic surgeon Joel Dunning said they had been touched by the generosity of so many people in helping them to raise £30,000 to make this first mission a reality.

He said: "We succeeded in performing nine operations with no complications and more importantly we learnt in detail the great challenges of setting up heart surgery in Ghana.

"We now have a pathway to move forward and get this centre supported towards independent practice.

“But also we learnt what a fabulous cardiothoracic team we have at James Cook. Not just the stellar 12 that came on the mission, but also the huge amount of support that we got from our whole department and messages of support while we were there."

The team are fundraising for a second mission in October this year, with donations being accepted via justgiving.com/crowdfunding/heartsurgerymissiontoghana