I am staring at a list of the names of over 100 Ugandan children with holes, blockages and leaks in their heart; knowing that for some, in a few short weeks, the dream that they and their families have been praying for will finally come true. These children will be selected to receive open heart surgery on our upcoming mission to Uganda in March. This will be my 17th visit to Uganda, and the 9th time we have done heart surgery there.
February 1st is also Super Bowl Sunday. Why do we mention the Super Bowl? Well, keep on reading to find out. You’ll be surprised!
Christian was a little boy who needed life saving heart surgery, and received it last February. He stole our heart with his big eyes and smile and his mother became a dear friend to us all. Sarah was a nurse, but had to quit for a while because Christian was so sick. (Christian has three siblings, too.)
Heart Healers International was started in 2008 to help give hope to children with heart problems in 90% of the planet that do not enjoy access to medical care we take for granted in North America. Uganda remains our most active country but we also do work in Morocco and have partners in 6 continents. We recently changed our name from Abaana Heart Healers (Abaana is the Ugandan word for children) to Heart Healers International to reflect our more global appeal. However, our commitment to our work in Uganda is stronger than ever.
Mike is 10 years old. He lives in Kampala, Uganda with his family in a small one-room apartment. He likes to play soccer, is a good student, and dreams of going to University. Unfortunately, he can no longer run and misses class frequently due to fatigue, difficulty breathing, and hospitalizations. Mike suffers from rheumatic heart disease (RHD), a completely preventable heart disease caused by untreated strep throat. Because his RHD is advanced, Mike faces an uncertain future—most children with advanced RHD in sub-Saharan Africa do not survive past their 25th birthday.
Meet Allan, Victoria, Lordrick, and Noel. Four children who could barely walk and would not survive. Four children who now can run and play and live a full life. All between the ages of 3 and 5, these children had around one-half the oxygen circulating in their bloodstream as a healthy person typically has. (Healthy oxygenation rates are between 95 – 100 percent; these children’s rates were 65 %!) Because they lacked the oxygen for normal activity, these children spent most of their time in a squatting position—this had the effect of forcing blood back to their lungs to help get oxygen.
September 29th – October 5th, 2013
Over the last decade, echocardiography has proved to be the most sensitive tool for early RHD detection. The WHO now supports early detection of RHD through echocardiography in high-prevalence regions. The WHF has published evidence-based guidelines for the echocardiographic diagnosis of RHD. These guidelines were designed for use with a standard portable echo machine.
This guest post is from Children’s National Melissa Jones, a nurse practitioner specializing Cardiac Surgery. She is one of many members of our Cardiology team who are in Uganda.
What an amazing week with an incredible team! We completed eight surgeries, 13 cardiac catheterizations, screened roughly 200 children for heart disease, and evaluated more than 100 by our general pediatrician and our genetics team.
Nearly 200 open-heart surgeries have been performed in Uganda, the first in 2007; complexity has increased every year and survival is over 98%. The Children’s team lead by surgeon Pranava Sinha performed the first open heart surgery in a brand new operating room on February 12, 2013.