Completing their first mission to our new Pediatric Heart Center in Managua, Nicaragua, a 15-member team from New York Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia Medical Center (NYPH), led by Dr. Paul Chai who heads their Pediatric Cardiac Department, has returned safely to New York from their week-long mission. Nine infants and children received critically-needed open-heart surgery at the hands of the team as they collaborated with the local surgical staff at the Heart Center. Specialized training in essential surgical procedures was an integral part of the week.
Our mission was the first humanitarian mission undertaken by NYPH in the country of Nicaragua, according to Philippe Lerch, Surgeons of Hope’s Nicaragua Program Director, in a preliminary report received today. “The NYPH mission definitely established the important role of our Heart Center and its future in Managua and surrounding regions in Central America,” Mr. Lerch said.
NYPH has volunteered teams for SoH missions in the past and the collaboration has been immensely productive in providing the best in heart care for the poorest children in other parts of the world. In 2004, when Surgeons of Hope was a young organization, the first four missions ever accomplished by us were led by NYPH teams traveling to Asia and Africa (Cambodia, Afghanistan, and Senegal). Jillian Kirkpatrick, RN, head nurse on Dr. Chai’s Nicaragua mission team, was also a team member for those 2004 missions.
Since the early years, Surgeons of Hope has focused on Latin America and sends teams from other leading hospitals in the US and Europe. Our history boasts about the steady, sure growth that our program provides, thanks to the help and support of our Global Giving partners and friends. For that we thank you all. Your donations continue to make our work possible for these kids.
Team members Dien Vu, MD (anesthesia); Carmen Martinez and Melissa Varrone, RNs, sent along some early photos which we know our Global Giving friends will enjoy.
How can we thank you, our Global Giving friends, except to say "Thank you all". We can't do it without your continued willingness to donate and your characteristic generosity.
"Awesome," was how visiting honors student Joe Maggiore described his experience when he was there to witness the first test of the $2M Catheterization Lab donated by Philips Medical, USA. Dean Rindlisbach, Philips representative, was there to calibrate the computers to the equipment and perform the test, but in addition, he took the time to show Joe how the system works. Joe wrote later, "When we got to the hospital, Philippe [Lerch, SoH Nicaragua program director] and I had to first meet up with Dean Rindlisbach from Philips Medical. Philips Medical donated this $2M CATH lab to the cardiac center, and Dean ... was visiting to finish up the CATH lab and configure all of the computers. It was here that I lived my geek dream. Once Dean was almost done wrapping up his configuration things, he brought me into the CATH lab and showed me how everything works. I really didn’t know the first thing about CATH labs so it was absolutely great for Dean to be so nice to show me around. During the demonstration I even had to wear this lead apron to protect me from the radiation. It was awesome."
"Awesome," is how we describe the help given to our project by Global Giving donors. You have stayed with us and contributed toward making this Pediatric Heart Center of Nicaragua a reality. Because of you, hundreds of children have regained their childhoods, now free of the heart defects that plagued their infancy and young childhood. And, you continue to support our mission to envision a world where no child is barred from access to life-saving heart surgery, when such help is readily available in the developed world. Our Pediatric Heart Center is a state-of-the-art, modern facility designed to be a beacon to draw medical professionals from throughout Central America to take advantage of the skilled care now available and the training progrems being developed.
Learning that Joe (also an accomplished percussionist) had planned a concert for the children on his steel drum, Dean invited his daughter along on the trip and she brought her ukelele. The two young musicians played their music for the children and staff on Saturday, setting up in various locations on the grounds, making for an unparalelled experience for all. The music was lively and most of the children had never seen or heard the instruments being played. Music can have strong healing powers for the kids, too.
The Pediatric Heart Center is coming to life, steadily and surely. The air conditioning has now been replaced by a stronger unit in time for our next surgical mission trip which will be supported by Surgeons of Hope, bringing a skilled team in late July from Bucaramanga and Bogota, Colombia.
Your Global Giving donations surely help us to keep the progress going. You have brought us this far. Keep it up.
This week in June has been highlighted by two distinctly fabulous visitors to our project where we are completing the equipping and furnishing of our new Pediatric Heart Center of Nicaragua. Construction was completed in late 2013. Now, in 2014, we have installed the new Philips Catheterization Lab valued at $1M and we are installing state-of-the-art sterilization equipment. Thanks to Global Giving donors for providing your hard-earned support to this work. Your dollars continue to make a difference.
Paying our project in Nicaragua a visit this week was Lydia Sorensen of Global Giving during her swing through Central America to visit selected projects. Our Nicaragua program director, Philippe Lerch, was pleased to give her the grand tour of the new facility and to explain how it all came to be. He had watched the new, modern hospital rise on the site of a former cow pasture adjacent to the public children's hospital, La Mascota. Now, he could proudly show Ms. Sorensen the reality of a Center where that country's poorest children (Nicaragua is the 2nd poorest country in the western hemisphere) can receive modern heart care from fully trained staff. On that site, Surgeons of Hope has fulfilled its promise of bringing surgery, training the local staff, and constructing a modern facility to carry on the progress. Mr. Lerch explained the cooperative spirit offered by the Health Ministry of Nicaragua, an essential ingredient in the success.
In an interview this week as she completed her visit to the Center, Ms. Sorensen said, "It is really wonderful what Surgeons of Hope has been able to accomplish through their cooperative understandings with the government to help the people who truly need it." In a note to our offices, Ms. Sorensen wrote, "The heart center is beautiful, and I know that having it there will save the lives of many Nicaraguan children who otherwise would not get treatment."
We could not have said it better. You, our Global Giving donors, can take pride in these positive comments that you have helped to bring about. There is more to be done though. There are so many ways in which your Global Giving donations can be put to work.
Also visiting Nicaragua for two weeks is a tremendously talented high school Senior from New Jersey, Joe Maggiore. Joe was there when Ms. Sorensen visited and he captured her on video as a subject of one of his first interviews. Volunteering to make a video for us about our project and our organization, Joe is writing a Wordpress blog each day and he is posting on our Facebook page, "Surgeons of Hope", if you would like to follow his travels. He is a marvelous writer and photo journalist. His camera's eye has captured some great photos, some of which are shared here. Thank you, Joe.
All of this success is not possible without the continuing support of our Global Giving friends. Please consider your usual one-time donation, or if you want to venture a "recurring" donation, know that we will appreciate it and help your donation dollars to go even further. We are thrifty people at Surgeons of Hope. We are also very grateful to you.
Just this past week-end, a Catheterization Lab, donated by the manufacturer, Philips Medical, arrived at our Pediatric Heart Center in Nicaragua. The photos tell the story. We gratefully celebrate this new arrival at our hospital. Over the next two weeks, the bundles will be unpacked and the unit installed in the room which has been prepared for it.
The new Heart Center continues to attract patients. As it is a public hospital, care is open to even the poorest families whose children are suffering from a variety of heart ailments and malformities. This is where our friends at Global Giving come in. The Global Giving community is particularly attuned to the needs of the world's disadvantaged people. Our Global Giving friends have been with us throughout the project which is by no means completed. More needs to be done.
We need help with continued training of the local medical staff. One of our doctor friends has volunteered to travel to the Heart Center in May to assess what training courses would be most needed and helpful, and in what order. We are continuing work in equipping and supplying the new Center. We need your help with donations, no matter how modest. Small donations join with larger ones.
One of our early patients, Holman, now 18 years of age, was brought to the Heart Center yesterday by his mother, as he was suffering from convulsions. That required a bus ride from their home village to Managua, but they made it and received the medications necessary to calm the convulsions. When they arrived at the Heart Center, they were happy to find that coincidentally, our Nicaragua Program Director, Philippe Lerch, was there with a member of our Board of Directors, Judith O'Neill, both of whom helped to allay fears. Holman will see a specialist there in the coming week to determine what is needed, we hope just a change in medication.
Through Global Giving, we and you have made a tremendous difference to these kids and their families. Please direct a contribution our way, knowing that it will be put to good use. What better way to celebrate Mother's Day than to help children gain access to life-altering care? A single donation helps us to purchase those things that are so necessary; a recurring donation will strengthen the giving power by allowing us to plan knowing that it will be there for us.
The last week in February, I traveled to Managua with three goals in mind: First to see our project,the new Pediatric Heart Center which has opened and is now operating at La Mascota Children's Hospital in Managua; Second, to meet our colleagues who are working with us at the new Center; Third, to follow up on little patients whom we have operated on and who are now at home living out their childhoods free of the heart problems which plagued their infancy and youth.
First, our new Pediatric Heart Center has a large footprint on the La Mascota property; it is clean and modern. Our work now is to complete the equipping and furnishing while the health ministry completes the staffing. The staff who are in place now are sufficient to provide operations (our training has honed and elevated their skills) and to care for children in half of the ICU units. The coming months will see the equipping completed. A donated Philips Catheterization Lab is on its way there now. That is huge progress, for which we tip our hats to our Global Giving donors who have helped us along the way.
Second, I met with staff and administrators, including the Director of La Mascota, Dr. Freddy Castillo, who praised the Center saying, "The Center gives a better perspective of life for the many children who will be helped because of it." Dr. Marta Vargas, Chief of the ICU area, smiled broadly saying, "The hospital is my second home," and she hopes for more nursing staff to give an even higher level of care. Through Global Giving we are providing even more pieces of absolutely necessary equipment for each ICU bed.
Third, and superbly gratifying were my visits with past patients and their families whose stories illustrate who we are and our mission in Latin America. We met Jonathan in Managua. He is now 12 and reports that he enjoys soccer, and ultimately hopes to become a banker. We met Camilla who, two years after her operation is now in kindergarten. She is a happy, vivacious youngster who is feeling much, much better with more energy and appetite. Because Camilla's health is better, her mother is able to take a class in becoming a beautician, something she could not do when Camilla was so ill. The whole family benefits, directly and indirectly, from Surgeons of Hope's program. And finally, we met with Holman who is now 18. His open-heart operation was in 2009. He is now enrolled in medical school studying biomedicine. Each day he takes a bus to Managua to the university, but he is doing well there. Holman's family said repeatedly that they realize the education is the way for their children to lift themselves out of generations of poverty. Thanks to our Global Giving friends, this is possible for these families.
My brief trip breathed life into our motto: "It is not only what we bring; it is what we leave behind." Thanks to Globel Giving for joining with us.
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