Since 2007, Team Heart has been providing life-saving cardiac care for children and teens in Rwanda during annual surgical development trips. A US team provides surgery for 8 days at our partner Oshen-King Faisal Hospital. Able to perform only 2 cases/day due to lack of OR theaters, Blood bank support and ICU beds this is only the tip of iceberg to address a desperate need. Rheumatic Heart Disease, a disease of childhood and poverty affects the impoverished population primarily from rural areas.
Rheumatic heart disease and congenital heart disease are the two most common causes of heart disease in children in sub-saharan Africa. Due to lack of access to health care facilities with skilled caregivers, these conditions go often undiagnosed and untreated until they progress to a very advanced stage. There are only 5 cardiologists in the country with only one serving the public population. No cardiac surgeon exists until 2019. Patients languish for months without diagnosis and treatment.
Having a facility suitable and available full-time to provide care and human resource training will be the first step to improving access to care and outcomes. Rwanda is a country looking for ways to solve the critical problem--but with a country with many competing factors in health care, they must address resources carefully. No child should die for lack of access yet 6 million children in the country have no access to care when needed.
Thousands of children for generations to come can be saved in Rwanda and the region. Physicians and nurses can receive the training needed to run the facility. The first in the region it can become a model for the region.