On 28 November 2022 – Proclamation of Independence Day in Timor-Leste – Dr. Noel Bayley, co-founder of East Timor Hearts Fund, was awarded the prestigious Medal of the Order of Timor-Leste.
His Excellency the President of the Republic of Timor-Leste, Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta presented Noel with the Medal for outstanding contribution to improving the health of many Timorese people.
Noel began providing cardiac care for Timorese people in 2000 while supporting his wife Yve who was involved in clean water projects in Timor-Leste. He noticed that many people in remote villages were unwell with symptoms he recognised as rheumatic heart disease (RHD), a condition caused by acute rheumatic fever.
Timor-Leste has one of the world’s highest rates of RHD with 35 out of 1,000 people affected. RHD is entirely preventable. However, in lower resourced countries like Timor-Leste, people often can’t easily access heart health care and their condition may not be diagnosed. If left untreated, patients with RHD can suffer terrible pain, disability and premature death. There is no cardiac surgery available in Timor-Leste, so critical patients need to have surgery overseas.
With children and young people at greatest risk, Noel knew he had to do whatever he could. He began giving cardiac ultrasound scans to screen patients for RHD and arranging care through Bairo Pite Clinic, Timor-Leste’s largest non-government health service. From 2000 to 2010 he personally funded his medical visits to Timor-Leste and contributed to the cost of surgeries for at least six patients.
In 2013, Noel co-founded East Timor Hearts Fund and through his network, built a groundswell of medical volunteers to provide cardiac screening clinics and life-saving heart surgery. More than 100 patients have now received heart surgery thanks to our supporters.
Noel said, “I am very honoured to receive this award and proud of being part of East Timor Hearts Fund. I am humbled that the Timorese people have allowed me to walk alongside them to help prevent and treat rheumatic heart disease.”