Healing Children's Hearts in Nicaragua

by Surgeons of Hope Foundation, Inc.
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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Dr. Fragata of the Portuguese team with patient
Dr. Fragata of the Portuguese team with patient

Last Saturday, a volunteer surgical team flew out of snowy Colorado (Denver) to tropical Managua, Nicaragua, to provide open-heart surgery to impoverished babies and children who have been awaiting their visit.  With the arrival of this team, headed by our president, Eduardo da Cruz, MD, head  of the pediatric cardiac unit at Childrens Hospital Colorado, 10 children are slated for surgery to return their childhoods to them.  On Sunday, the children and their families gathered for the process of final scans and diagnoses from the team and readied for surgery, scheduled to begin on Monday morning and continue through the week until the team returns to Colorado on December 6.

With the help of GlobalGiving friends, we have been providing such surgery to the children of Nicaragua since 2008, but we do more than that.  Regular readers of our reports have seen the story unfold from our beginning with surgery at La Mascota Childrens Hospital, and the progressive training of the local medical team.  In late 2013, the local team was able to perform this miraculous surgery on their own, a giant step ahead.  At about that time, Surgeons of Hope completed the final phase of its building project, and in 2013, opened the new Pediatric Heart Center of Nicaragua.  Since then, we have continued with fine-tuning of the training, providing equipment to the new Heart Center, opening the new catheterization lab donated by Philips Medical and continuing the progress toward a fully sustainable facility.

Please realize that GlobalGiving has been with us from the beginning...and this is where all of our donors can celebrate with us.  Without you, this would not have been possible.

Please think of us on Giving Tuesday (December 1) and support the Colorado team in your thoughts.  They will be working hard in the operating room and the ICU and the children move from needing surgery to recovery.  Know that the nurses and doctors will be at the bedsides of the little patients the whole time, as this photo from last month's mission team from Portual illustrates.  Our next report will have photos from this week's Colorado team.

Thank you for being a GlobalGiving friend.  Please open your hearts and give generously.

Diagnosing on Sunday
Diagnosing on Sunday
The new Pediatric Heart Center of Nicaragua
The new Pediatric Heart Center of Nicaragua
The team from Portugal gathers for photo
The team from Portugal gathers for photo

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Jose Fragata, MD, Mission Team Leader
Jose Fragata, MD, Mission Team Leader

Our next pediatric surgical training mission is set to travel from Lisbon, Portugal, to our new pediatric heart center at La Mascota Children's Hospital in Managua, Nicaragua.  The volunteer team of gifted specialists will travel from Hospital Santa Marta in Lisbon, led by renowned heart surgeon Jose Fragata, MD.  They will depart from Lisbon on October 31 and return on November 8.  During that exhausting week, they will operate on 10 pre-selected needy infants and children with heart problems that have plagued them for most if not all of their young lives.  15 or 20 children will be candidates for the surgery, but 10 will be chosen to receive their operations that week.

When he was assembling his team of specialists (assistant surgeon, 2 anesthesiologists, perfusionist, cardiologist, and operating room nurse), Dr. Fragata discovered that he had a big problem.  He had no intensive care nurses, and he needed five of them.  Everywhere he turned, he was turned down---the nurses were all needed in their home hospitals and could not leave their posts.  So, Dr. Fragata turned to Surgeons of Hope for help. 

Nicaragua Program Director Philippe Lerch, founder of Surgeons of Hope, got busy and contacted many of our former mission teams' nurses, enlisting the aid of our president, Eduardo da Cruz, of Children's Hospital Colorado.  Within ten days the problem was solved.  Five ICU nurses had stepped up and volunteered for the mission.  Two were from Madrid, Spain (Gregorio Maranon Hospital).  Two were from the cardiology department at Hospital Infantil in Bucaramanga, Colombia.  And, one agreed to come from Children's Hospital Colorado.

As the date for the mission draws nearer, the families hoping for operations will prepare to make the trip to Managua from remote villages.  To reach Managua, they will need to transport their child who will be too weak to walk.  The trip for half of the patients will mean being carried on foot, traveling by river even to reach a road, and if they are lucky, finishing the rest of the trip by bus over treacherous roads.  Once at the hospital, and if selected for surgery, the child and one parent will expect to remain at the hospital for two weeks to one month.  For the parent, most of the days will be spent sitting in a bedside chair.

As we prepare to send the mission, we call on our Global Giving friends who are extraordinarily supportive to keep us in mind.  This week, in fact, Global Giving is featuring an offer to match your RECURRING donation.  So, if you decide to give us a small donation on a monthly repeating pattern, this matching offer will go into effect.  Please consider it, as such recurring donations allow us to plan accordingly.  If you prefer to make a one-time donation, we welcome that, as always.

One of our board members, Michel Berty, visited our offices last week, presenting me with an opportunity to reflect on his visit last year to our new Pediatric Heart Center in Managua.  He said he was impressed by the people he met, including the "dynamic" surgeon, Allan Tellas, MD, and the cardiologist, Mireya Araica, MD, "who is an impressive, fantastic lady".  He enjoyed the open courtyard area where families are welcome to relax, and particularly the open-air veranda in the lodging pavilion (financed years ago by the Italian government as a gift), where families are instructed in a variety of topics, including providing care once the children return home from the hospital.

Please consider your connection to the work of Surgeons of Hope and the good that your donation will do.

Dr. Fragata Presenting a Training Lecture
Dr. Fragata Presenting a Training Lecture
Front Entrance at Pediatric Heart Center
Front Entrance at Pediatric Heart Center
Selecting the Children who will be operated on
Selecting the Children who will be operated on

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Two Years Later
Two Years Later

Occasionally, we receive news from our Nicaraguan project and always, such news is welcome.  You can imagine our pleasure late last week when we received a photo shared on electronic media from a devoted mother who was observing the second anniversary of her son's heart surgery at our new Pediatric Heart Center in Nicaragua.

This is why we do what we do.  Cristhian of Nicaragua, a young mother,.put together this heartwarming collage.   In the foreground is a 2013 photo of her son when he was an infant who underwent surgery at our Pediatric Heart Center in Nicaragua. Following surgery performed by Dr. Dominique Metras of France, the photo was taken by the team's anesthesiologist, Amar Hasan of Palestine. Dr. Hasan must have given this mother the photo as a keepsake. Now, two years later, the mother has provided a new photo of her son, smiling and healthy. Gracias, y saludos a su hijo.

We are happy to share this joyful story with our Global Giving family of donors who, after all, make so much of our program possible.  Our Nicaragua program is thriving, staff for the new Heart Center is expanding slowly but surely and supply lines are activating so that the Heart Center will be able to acquire medicines and supplies without Surgeons of Hope needing to order and ship to them.  This is the kind of progress that Surgeons of Hope, in partnership with you, is making.

In a personal message to us, the mother thanks Surgeons of Hope for the fact that her son is now healthy and leading the life of a normal child.

There is more to be done at our Heart Center.  There are challenges, of course, but the momentum is there.  We share this photo with you, with thanks.  Please consider a donation to Surgeons of Hope through Global Giving.  Every dollar helps to give a child the gift of a normal childhood.

Please give.  Even a small donation will help to bring about critically needed surgery and additional training for the local staff.

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Andro Heals by Blowing Bubbles
Andro Heals by Blowing Bubbles

Surgeons of Hope has made progress in a few directions since our last report in March.  In April our new Pediatric Heart Center welcomed a full mission team from Madrid, Spain, for a week of surgeries and training, and in May, a week-long catheterization mission team from Arizona and Idaho inaugurated the new catheterizaiton lab at the Heart Center.  The Mission was supported by Mending Kids Foundation.  A little girl received the first catheretization procedure and the outcome was successful, much to the joy of her family and the hospital staff.

During the Madrid mission, one of the little patients, Andro, recovered nicely from heart surgery at the Heart Center in Managua and enjoyed blowing soap bubbles as part of his recuperation process. The team of 13 specialists from Madrid was led by surgeon Juan-Miguel Gil, MD, and cardiologist Constancio Medrano. The April mission was a resounding success.

This week, two new pieces of equipment have been delivered to the Heart Center, one is a newly refurbished Philips ultrasound machine (donated by Let It Beat Foundation, in Geneva, Switzerland) and a perfusionist's CPB (Heart-Lung) pump.  Just this afternoon, we learned that a package of syringe pump parts has arrived safely, also.

"With this equipment, the Heart Center of Managua is now one of the most modern in Cenral America," commented Philippe Lerch, Nicaragua Program Director for Surgeons of Hope.  "This will help the local team to operate on growing numbers of children who desperately need surgery."

Surgeons of Hope has not and cannot do this without the help of our loyal Global Giving friends.  The children receiving care at our Heart Center may not know the source of their help, but we do, and we thank you.  Please continue your life-altering support.

Andro Taking Up Art
Andro Taking Up Art
Andro with the team cardiologist and his mother
Andro with the team cardiologist and his mother
Madrid Medical Team photo
Madrid Medical Team photo

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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