The Sir Victor Sassoon (Bahamas) Heart Foundation was established as a living tribute by Lady Sassoon following the death of her husband, Sir Victor Sassoon, Bart GBE, in 1961 to assist Bahamians with heart disease. Lady Sassoon had asked that instead of sending flowers to honour her husband, that people could send a donation to the local heart fund. A few weeks later the hospital called to tell her that a substantial amount of money had been donated in her husband’s memory, but that there was no local heart fund. So she took it upon herself to create one and the birth of a great idea had been born.
Trustees of the Foundation met for the first time in November, 1961 and decided that all monies donated to the Foundation would be used to help children who otherwise would be unable to receive cardiac care. The following year, the first child sponsored by the Heart Foundation went to Variety Children’s Hospital Miami, Florida.
In 1963, Dr. Francisco A. Hernandez of the National Children’s Cardiac Hospital in Miami, came to Nassau for the first Cardiac Clinic. Fifteen children were seen and every year since then, clinics have been held at Princess Margaret Hospital, often conducted by a team of top cardiologists from the United States and Great Britain, as well as the Bahamas.
Children requiring further investigation and surgery were sent to Variety Children’s hospital, The National Children’s Cardiac Hospital and Jackson Memorial Hospital, all located in Miami, Florida.
Through the Foundation’s fund raising efforts and the steady leadership of Lady Sassoon, over 4,000 children have been afforded quality medical care. The Foundation has held car raffles, concerts and movie premiers as part of its fund raising efforts. The major fund raising activity of the Foundation is the Annual Heart Ball, held on the Saturday nearest to St. Valentine’s Day.Since 1968, the highlight of the Ball is the presentation of the prestigious Golden Heart Award, which is presented to that person who has given of himself or herself unselfishly to make life better for their fellow man. In memory of Lady Sassoon who passed away in 1997, the Foundation renamed it the Lady Sassoon Golden Heart Award.
The only other source of income for the Foundation are donations, both general and memorial. In 1966, the Foundation purchased a defibrillator machine for Princess Margaret Hospital and three years later, the first Adult Heart Clinic was held at the hospital. Fourteen adults were seen and those requiring further treatment and care were referred to Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Later, adults were also sent to St. Francis Hospital and Mercy Hospital, both in Miami. Adolescent patients were also seen at Royal Brompton Heart and Lung Hospital, London, England.
In 1991, because of a severe shortage of funds, the Foundation discontinued assistance to adult patients. However, it negotiated global fees with the South Florida Heart Institute.
The Foundation then concentrated on children suffering from heart disease and related conditions. It still maintains a close affiliation with the University of Miami School of Medicine and Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Today, with qualified Bahamian cardiologists, most procedures are now done locally at Princess Margaret Hospital and Doctor’s Hospital in Nassau. The pediatric cardiac team comprises Dr. Jerome Lightbourne, Pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Mark Weech, Pediatric Cardiac Anesthesiologist and Dr. Duane Sands, Cardio-thoracic Surgeon. The adult team comprises Dr. Conville Brown, Adult Cardiologist, Dr. Dean Tseretopolous, Adult Cardiologist, Dr. Patrick Cargill, Adult Cardiologist and Dr. Sy Pierre, Adult Cardiac Anesthesiologist.
In January 2000, the Foundation equipped the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine of Princess Margaret Hospital (Blood Bank) with a computer system, four portable donor lounges, four space saver donor lounges and two centrifuges.
In February of 2005 through the thoughtful donation of the Lyford Cay Foundation and The Mark Knowles Celebrity Tennis event, the Foundation was able to purchase defibrillators for every ambulance in Nassau and Grand Bahama and five special defibrillators for Princess Margaret Hospital, including a special pediatric defibrillator.
During the past 49 years, the Heart Foundation, through the generosity of friends of the Foundation, has been able to assist children to be able to live their lives to the fullest. The Sir Victor Sassoon (Bahamas) Heart Foundation continues to provide quality medical care to those who are now able to celebrate life and with the continued support of the public, we will carry on with our mission to facilitate the care for all in need.
The Sassoon Heart Foundation boasts the remarkable achievement of passing over 97 cents of every dollar raised directly to the aid of our young patients. Your support of the Heart Foundation is critical to our maintaining our outstanding record of aid to children with heart disease.
2011 marked the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Sassoon Heart Foundation. Join us for celebrations of our anniversary by attending the annual Heart Ball.
The Heart Foundation now has an American arm, recognised for tax deduction purposes. American downers can make checks payable to Sassoon Heart Foundation Inc. 1811 NW 51ST, #1264, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 33309.