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.
During an intense week of pediatric heart surgery, local team training, surveys of remaining equipment and supply needs as well as management systems, and meetings with top-raking government officials, 10 children received free surgery at the hands of the local doctors collaborating with our visiting team.
This mission was the inaugural mission to our new Pediatric Heart Center of Nicaragua. The team was led by our President, Eduardo da Cruz, MD, (cardiologist) and James Jaggers, MD, (cardiac surgeon), both of Children's Hospital Colorado, who drew their team from their own hospital. Many team members were thrilled to be included in this historically meaningful trip, as they had been members of earlier mission teams since our involvement at La Mascota Children's Hospital began in December, 2008, with a team from Denver.
What a change it was! The floor plan of the new Pediatric Heart Center is a replica of the Children's Hospital Colorado, so it seemed like home. The new hospital is clean, shiny, sterile, and being supplied with the latest in modern equipment, thanks to Surgeons of Hope and our Global Giving donors who help us to make this possible. Many, many good-hearted people are pitching in bit by bit to make this project come together.
Our regional director for the Nicaragua project, Philippe Lerch, spent time with the families whose children were selected for life-saving surgery, and our medical team fully involved themselves, too, non-stop. Little Raquel, who is three years old, needed some comfort one day after her surgery, and Mr. Lerch remembered that he had some Crayola crayons in his briefcase. Raquel put the crayone to good use immediately as the photo proves. She went home to complete her recuperation, as did the other children.
The good that our Global Giving donors bring to our program cannot be measured. It's huge. Please consider joining in celebrating this inaugural mission by supporting our efforts to complete the equipping and supplying phase at the new Heart Center. Your year-end dollars gather with other donations to bring about great progress. We still need you, as do the children whom we help. Help us to help them.
2013 has been a year of tremendous progress for our program in Nicaragua, from sponsoring surgical missions to completing construction of our new Pediatric Heart Center of Nicaragua. This achievement would not have been possible without the support of our Global Giving donors and friends, some of whom gave significantly, and some who gave generously from limited resources, but all are appreciated. We did this together.
In July, the new Heart Center hosted a celebration which drew a large audience to hear speeches, to see a commemorative plaque unveiled, and to remember those who worked so hard to bring it about.
And now, after diligent efforts to continue the equipping and supplying of the new, modern facility, the honor of the inaugural teaching surgical mission to ever visit the new Heart Center is given to Eduardo da Cruz, MD, SoH President, partnered with noted cardiac surgeon, James Jaggers, MD, both of whom are colleagues at Children's Hospital of Colorado. Their team is drawn from the excellent medical staff at their own hospital, many of whom have gone on the early surgical mission trips to our program in Managua.
This larger-than-usual team includes experts in equipment maintenance and repair, hospital inventory systems, and childhood heart disease prevention.
Symbolizing the continuation of collaborative support from both the American and European teams, the second mission, scheduled for early 2014, will be led by noted pediatric heart surgeon, Dr. Daniel DeWolfe, and his mission team from CdE Belgium (La Chaine de l'Espoir--Belgique).
Returning to the SoH offices in New York this week for pre-mission details, Philippe Lerch, Director of the Nicaragua program, described the impact of the recent outbreak of dengue fever which hospitalized 64 children and brought an all-out effort to provide transfusion equipment to the main hospital. Latest dengue victim statistics are showing improvement in recent reports. Board member Michel Berty stopped in to greet him and receive an update.
The new Heart Center is already becoming the hub of activity, Mr. Lerch reports. Two areas are showing robust activity: the Cardiology offices are now open and busy with visitors who can enjoy the air contitioned rooms or the new flower gardens where benches are being added to already installed swings for the children. Also, the pre-operative rooms when children and their families stay comfortably while they are awaiting tests and their appointment for surgery.
Mr. Lerch proudly indicated that Surgeons of Hope has the first public heart hospital in Nicaragua. We remain grateful for your participation in our achievement.
As we near the end of the year, we hope that you will enjoy the convivialty of peace the the season offers, and that when you think of your end-of-the-year giving, you will remember Surgeons of Hope and the truly amazing work that we are doing to bring hope to the young children of Nicaragua. We thank you most sincerely for your spontaneous and heartfelt compassion and generosity.
On July 23 the ribbon was cut to open the main doors of our new Pediatric Heart Center of Nicaragua. Officials and the media gathered to mark the occasion with speeches, music, and dance. A tour of the new facility followed and included a bedside visit to see little Martha, (2), the first child to receive an operation in the new building. The smiling face of Martha's mother said more than words can convey.
It is important to note with appreciation the role of our GlobalGiving friends who have brought us this far. While the opening is a grand achievement, the hospital is only half-furnished with equipment and supplies. One of the two operating rooms and four of the Intensive Care units are ready for use; the other half is still coming. That's where GlobalGiving continues to make essential contributions. Our main project "Healing Children's Hearts in Nicaragua" helps to fund the surgeries and training, and our little mircroproject "Keeping Infants Warm After Heart Surgery--GlobalGiving # 14408" is poking along to supply warming blankets, a vital detail to an infant's quick recovery after surgery. Both projects are necessary; both projects are active.
A bit more about Martha and her mother: They come from a small village in Nicaragua, called Valle de la Laguna (Valley of the Lake), near Grenada. Because Martha's father did not remain with the family, Martha and her mother live with grandmother. The problem that Martha was having was a chronic case of pneumonia because her heart was not functioning well enough. Now, after her surgery, what they call a DAP procedure, things are much better.
There will be more surgical missions in the fall, October and early December, to continue ongoing training in the new Heart Center, but what a wonderful Center it is. Alan Tellez, the heart surgeon at the Heart Center, is forever grateful for the improvement and the modern equipment, joining his staff in appreciation for this most up-to-date facility. Dr. Mejia called it a giant step for Nicaragua, and that it was, and continues to be, with your help.
Please consider a donation in celebration of what you and Surgeons of Hope have created together. Your donation will be put to work in supporting upcoming surgical training missions and providing the necessary supplies.
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