Healing Children's Hearts in Nicaragua

by Surgeons of Hope Foundation, Inc.
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Nurse Ana Rosa took this photo for us.
Nurse Ana Rosa took this photo for us.

A wonderful story grew out of the August surgical training mission which brouht a team from Colombia, South America. The team of more than a dozen specialists was headed bythe chief pediatric surgeon from the noted children's hospital in Bogota.  Along on the trip and a gifted heart doctor was a member of the board of Surgeons of Hope.  In a recent conversation, our board member confirmed that the details which follow are accurate.

While the Colombian team was conducting scheduled complex surgeries at our new Pediatric Heart Center in Managua, Nicaragua, a newborn baby in his first hours of life was struggling to breathe, having come into the world in a hospital on the other sie of Managua.  The baby was what we call a "blue baby"--not enough oxygen was reaching his blood, a somewhat common occurence that can be dealt with in the U.S. and Europe, but not so possible in the less-advantaged countries of Latin America.  Someone at the birth hospital remembered hearing that the Colombian team was visiting our Heart Center (just the thing our new Heart Center can offer), and so the baby was bundled up and rushed by car to La Mascota Children's Hospital.  Our Heart Center is located just across the parking lot from La Mascota.  So, the tiny infant was hand-carried across the very hot parking lot to the Heart Center, where Dr. Brochet's team went to work immediately, including this additional operation into a schedule already filled by two other surgeries.  After some hours of surgery, the little newborn heart (the size of a walnut) was repaired, and although the baby spent his first night in the ICU and had a few recovery adventures, Expert cardiac care brought the dawn of the next day, and the little one was recovering nicely by morning.  The baby continued to strengthen and thrive, and is now at home leading the normal life of a newborn infant.  We are gratified that the original team on the other side of the city knew that an expert team was visiting, and they took action.  One can imagine the relief, joy, and gratitude filling the hearts of the baby's parents.

This true story dramatizes the profound difference that Surgeons of Hope, in partnership with our loyal Global Giving donors, has made in Nicaragua.  Understand that we cannot do it without you.

On Wednesday, September 21, there is a Global Giving matching day between 6:00 am and midnight, eastern time.  If hyou give a donation of any size on that day, your dollars to be matched and go even further to help our volunteer medical professionals to do what they do best.  They have so many examples of little lives saved, because of the help we get from our Global Giving donors who continue to care out Surgeons of Hope.  

Two Colombian team members with Ana Rosa
Two Colombian team members with Ana Rosa
Child Recuperating After Surgery
Child Recuperating After Surgery

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Global Giving Site Visitors, Photo by Dr. Mejia
Global Giving Site Visitors, Photo by Dr. Mejia

The long-standing partnership between Global Giving and Surgeons of Hope remains a source of inspiration for us, our faithful donors, and Surgeons of Hope’s program to provide access to first-rate cardiac care for infants and children in Nicaragua.

This past July, a Global Giving representative, and her mother, visited our Pediatric Heart Center in Managua to tour the modern facility and to meet the dedicated staff who are working with us to see that the hospital reaches its full inspired potential.

The Global Giving representative praised the experience of meeting with the director of the Heart Center.  “A wonderful host; his enthusiasm was contagious as he showed my mother and me around La Mascota Hospital's brand new Heart Center in Managua. We were truly touched by the difference this state-of-the-art facility is making in the lives of Nicaraguan children and their families.”

Summarizing our program, “Surgeons of Hope is providing an invaluable service to the people of Nicaragua, helping to ensure that children with heart-related complications have the same opportunity at a long and happy life that we often take for granted in countries like the United States. Access to quality healthcare continues to be a poignant issue in countries like Nicaragua, and Surgeons of Hope is helping to change that. Keep up the great work!”

Terming the visit a “privilege”, comments included that the facility was exceptional, but the care providers were even more impressive. "You could sense the quiet competence, dedication, and honor of their work from every staff member we met. As we moved through the building, the Director and his fellow providers were unfailingly respectful, attentive, gentle and kind to each young patient, also to the palpably anxious but relieved and grateful parents hovering nearby. Despite being a hospital, the children's cardiac center felt like caring, and compassion, and hope. Our visit was inspiring and profoundly moving. I'll never forget it."

August brought a surgical mission from Colombia, South America, to provide surgery and continue collaborative training to the staff.  September has brought a special event honoring the work of Surgeons of Hope at the U.N. in New York, where French, Nicaraguan, and Costa Rican diplomats praised our program and the very real progress we are making toward access to health care in Nicaragua. 

This cannot be done without you, our Global Giving donors.  We are profoundly grateful to each of you for your collective caring.  If you are thinking of a donation of any size, this Wednesday will offer a chance to have your donation matched by Global Giving.  Matching funds are available beginning at 6:00 am, Eastern time and continuing until the matching funds run out.  So, the race is to the swiftest.  If you can give something to us this week, do it on Wednesday morning.  

Visiting a little patient (Photo by Dr. Mejia)
Visiting a little patient (Photo by Dr. Mejia)
ICU Nurse Ana Rosa with 2 members of Colombia team
ICU Nurse Ana Rosa with 2 members of Colombia team

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Reconnecting with Ana Rosa, RN
Reconnecting with Ana Rosa, RN

Progress at our new Pediatric Heart Center in Nicaragua is sure and steady, thanks to enthusiastic dedication from visiting surgical training teams and you, our Global Giving friends, who stay with us and repeat your support.  Without you, where would we be?  We begin by thanking you.

To bring our Global Giving friends up to date, two international teams have visited our Heart Center in Managua in recent months.  In April, a team from Madrid, Spain, paid their second visit, reuniting with Head ICU Nurse Ana Rosa who had spent some training time with them in Madrid.  The reunion was energizingly happy.  During their week-long mission, the team engaged in complex surgeries, collaborating with the local team, whose expertise continues to strengthen.  The benefit of a visiting team who shares the Spanish language with the local team is invaluable....communication is easy and more complete.  The catheterization laboratory is beginning to come to life and serve the little patients, too.

And then in June, an international team which we sponsored in partnership with the International Children's Heart Fund visited the Heart Center for continued surgeries, follow-ups, and more training.  That team, most of whom spoke Spanish, moved training along, and accomplished a few more than the intended ten surgeries, just because there were some urgent cases needing urgent care.  Local surgeon, Alan Tellas, MD, performed surgeries during the mission, and of course, continues to provide operations between missions, along with his team.

By now, we can report that all children in the photos have returned to their homes with healthier hearts and their childhoods ahead of them.

As the Catheterization Lab grows in its use, Dr. Gerardo Mejia, our Nicaragua Program Director, reports that they are running low on "catheterization probes", single-use devices.  They need one each time they use the machine. Understanding that Nicaragua is the second poorest country on our side of the world, this is where our Global Giving friends can help.  Your help in any amount is needed for this important life-saving work  We know you agree that no child should die for lack of access to the kind of care that is readily available to us in the developed world..

Thank you for your continuing friendship and caring.

Madrid Team at Heart Center with bags of supplies
Madrid Team at Heart Center with bags of supplies
Distracting Pedro with a surgical glove worked
Distracting Pedro with a surgical glove worked
Dayana was the first operation of the ICHF week
Dayana was the first operation of the ICHF week
Dayana is prepared for surgery
Dayana is prepared for surgery
A Father
A Father's Love Can Help Too

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Ana Rosa providing comfort in Madrid
Ana Rosa providing comfort in Madrid

Sometimes, the impossible takes a round-about route to achieve the possible.  Surgeons of Hope is pleased to share this story of a Nicaraguan nurse's journey to Spain due to the efforts of her counterparts at a hospital in Madrid who saw in her a full measure of love of pediatric nursing along with a desire to achieve her potential.

This is the story of Ana Rosa, head intensive care nurse at our new Pediatric Heart Center in Managua, Nicaragua, our Global Giving assisted project with many, many Global Giving friends.  But, Ana Rosa's story begins with the caring of Madrid pediatric nurse, Gemma.  Gemma volunteered her nursing talent to join a team going to our heart center from France.  As this was her first time, she flew to Paris to join Dr. Metras who accompanied her in her travels. Her work brought her into contact with Ana Rosa, her Nicaraguan counterpart, with whom she found a collegial bond.  She realized that Ana Rosa would benefit from a visit to her home hospital in Madrid to learn modern ICU care for infants and children. Ana Rosa possessed the desire but not the exposure. 

Once she returned to Spain, Gemma organized a surgical team from her own hospital, University Hospital Gregorio Maranon and that team traveled to Nicaragua for a week of surgery, in the process, developing a desire to do more for our heart center and for Ana Rosa. 

Here is where the success come in.  The Madrid team invited Ana Rosa to speak at their hospital's 23rd  Annual Meeting, a professional conference, to which our own foundation president, Eduardo da Cruz, MD, was also invited.  The conference occurred early this month.  Ana described her first-hand experience at our heart center to a rapt audience.While in Madrid, she also spent intensive days in collaborative training and returned to Nicaragua filled with knowledge to share with her nursing staff and supported by the dedication of the Madrid nursing team.

With the help of our Global Giving community, this is what we do.  We operate, we train, and we build.  It is a simple as that.  This story is a perfect example of global reach, linking France with Spain with Nicaragua and even with Denver.  Ana Rosa is a favorite with the nurses at Children's Hospital Colorado, who have come to know and respect her dedication.  Good job, Ana Rosa and Gemma.  One of the Madrid nurses wrote in Spanish, translated here as, "I love Ana Rosa.  She really is a dedicated leader."

How can you join hands with this project?  This Wednesday, March 18, is a Matching Day at Global Giving.  If you make a small donation on Wednesday, Global Giving will match your donation at the end of the day.  Whatever amount you give will be increased, so your donation will go even further.  Please help Ana Rosa and us to do even more.

Ana Rosa telling the story in Madrid
Ana Rosa telling the story in Madrid
Collaborative training with Spanish nurses
Collaborative training with Spanish nurses
Madrid nurses with Ana Rosa
Madrid nurses with Ana Rosa

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SoH administrators flank First Lady
SoH administrators flank First Lady

To ensure the sustainability of the new Pediatric Heart Center of Nicaragua and to promote future exchanges of training initiatives, Surgeons of Hope responded to a request from the National Children's Hospital of San Jose, Costa Rica to send a surgical team to provide professional development collaboration and training for that hospital.  A team of volunteers from New York Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia Medical Center traveled to Costa Rica last week and operated on 11 children in surgical collaboration with the local team.  The collaboration was a great success.  All eleven surgeries were successful.  The National Hospital in Costa Rica is a short drive from our Heart Center.  Surgeons of Hope is promoting a future cooperation between the two medical facilities on a regular basis.  Toward that end, this NYPH mission was intended to promote that cooperation.  And, it did.

In conjunction with meetings with Surgeons of Hope administrators, a video team arranged by Costa Rica's First Lady, Senora Mercedes Pena Domingo, visited the National Children's Hospital and filmed the mission.  Great strides were made toward the desired cooperation.  First Lady Pena Domingo said that such missions are important to maintain surgical progress in her country and health for the children to reduce the waiting list for surgery and to offer a greater quality of life to all people of her country.  Dr. Ronald Quintana, Chief of Cardiovascular Surgery at the National Children's Hospital praised the sharing of knowledge between his hospital staff and the visiting team of specialists.  There exists the real potential of future cooperation between his hospital and our Heart Center in Managua.

Under the leadership of head surgeon Paul Chai, MD, of NYPH-Columbia, the eleven children received expert surgery.  All surgeries were successful.  One afternoon, Dr. Chai visited the post-op children in the Intensive Care Unit to see how they were progressing.  Leaning in to examine a two-year-old, the child reached up to give Dr Chai a kiss.  It was a moment for the whole team to remember.

For our Heart Center in Nicaragua, this regional progress is invaluable.  It is a giant step toward narrowing the gap between health care that is readily available in the advantaged world, but which is largely unavailable to impoverished countries in Latin America.

Our Global Giving donors are a key element in contributing to this success.  Please continue to help us in this effort. 

Although our teams volunteer their time, there are mission expenses to be covered by Surgeons of Hope in the form of transportation, logistics, and medical supplies.  With your help our Heart Center in Nicaragua will steadily grow in planned capabilities, and now in a partnership with the National Hospital in Costa Rica.

First Lady Greets Dr. Chai
First Lady Greets Dr. Chai
Song on Dr
Song on Dr's phone calms Britany's fears
Dr. McKenna reassures Brayan before surgery
Dr. McKenna reassures Brayan before surgery

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Organization Information

Surgeons of Hope Foundation, Inc.

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website: http:/​/​surgeonsofhope.org/​
Project Leader:
Leila Hawken
Executive Consultant
New York, NY United States

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