Cardiac Alliance has been featured on ShareAmerica, a platform produced by the US Department of State. Our story has been shared to all the US Embassies worldwide. This particular story can be translated into seven different languages. Read the article on ShareAmerica to learn more about our life-saving work in war-torn areas.
Two brothers, Four heart defects.
In 2012, we met Abdul, a Libyan boy who was born with four heart defects, called Tetralogy of Fallot. Dr Kathleen Fenton operated on Abdul alongside Libyan pediatric cardiac surgeon Dr Wejdan Abou Amer. Because his heart defects were diagnosed late, Abdul was very sick following his surgery and remained in the ICU for many days. Our team was scheduled to leave the country, but Dr Fenton changed her flight to stay and help the Libyan team care for Abdul.
In June, our team returned to Benghazi and met Abdul’s little brother Mohammed. Mohammed has also been diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot. His parents were devastated to learn their second son also had a life threatening heart defect. It is “life threatening” because he lives in war-torn Libya with limited basic health care available, let alone pediatric heart surgery.
Since our team has been visiting Libya and educating the local Libyan medical professionals for several years, we are witnessing the magic our work accomplishes. Mohammed needs a type of surgical procedure that the local Libyan surgeon Dr Wejdan can now perform on her own! Dr Fenton collaborated with the Libyan team and determined that Mohammed’s surgery can be performed by Dr Wejdan after our team leaves the country. From our continued teaching, she has developed the skills to do this, and the ICU team has the skills necessary to care for a patient like Mohammed.
Without our continued perseverance to travel to Libya, children like Mohammed and his brother Abdul would not survive. There would be no miraculous story to tell.
And by the way, Abdul is now 6 years old and attending school!
Jordan Campbell- A writer and filmmaker travelled with us to Tobruk, Libya. His story was recently published in National Geographic Adventure. You can read the whole article below. With your help we can continue to support our projects in countries like Libya.
Libya is a country in turmoil, with a health care infrastructure that is falling apart. We get criticized sometimes for continuing to go to Libya to perform lifesaving heart surgeries in the midst of the violence and chaos.
‘They need aid’ is what we hear in America, when the topic of Libya comes up.
Here are four reasons why we provide heart surgery in a war zone like Libya:
- Libyans know what they need—and they asked us to come.
Libyans are savvy. They care for their own people. They want to provide what their people need. It isn’t helpful to come from the outside, without intimately knowing the situation on the ground, and assuming to know better.
- By teaching best ICU care practices, preservation of sterilization in the operating room, and echocardiogram diagnosis techniques—as well as surgical techniques—we raise the level of care across the board.
Local medical staff who master best practices in care of young heart surgery patients are able to apply those skills in every other hospital department.
- When we teach the skills required to perform pediatric heart surgeries, local medical staff can then handle whatever gets thrown at them.
When doctors and nurses become skilled healing the smallest, most vulnerable patients, with incredibly challenging heart defects, they have the skills needed to handle trauma, and any other condition they might be presented with.
- It’s within our hands to do.
We aren’t the UN. We aren’t the World Food Programme. Thankfully, those groups already exist to provide broad relief aid.
We are focussed on the immediate needs of Libyan children who need heart surgeries to live, as well as a medical system which requires more trained medical personnel to care for their own citizens.
We are focussed on what is needed right now. But at the same time, we are able to help bring positive systemic change. We all have the ability to contribute to the stabilization of Libya—this is how we do it.
“Unable to get specialist care for his six year-old daughter in Libya or a visa for treatment
abroad, Abdulhakim Shaybi bought a motor boat and set off with her last month across the Mediterranean. Two and a half hours into their journey from Sabratha in western Libya, they reached a European ship deployed to rescue migrants.
‘I raised a white flag to the ship in a sign of peace,’ Shaybi told Reuters by phone this
week from the Italian city of Genoa, where his daughter Sajida, who has the rare blood cell disease aplastic anemia, is now undergoing tests. ‘My friend told them that we have a sick little girl.’
‘We are only conducting emergency operations now,’ General Manager Mukhtar al Habbas told Reuters [from Tripoli]. ‘We have no anesthetic, sterilizing materials, or medical gauze, so how we can work?’
It is a similar tale across Libya. About half of the country’s 159 hospitals are either closed or barely delivering services, said Haroon Rashid, a World Health Organization official.”
The current health care situation in Libya is so precarious that the father of a sick young girl risked an ocean crossing to get her the treatment she desperately needs. Nearly 3,000 refugees died this year alone, making this same crossing.
This is why we continue to work in Libya. This is why we partner with Libyan surgeons, cardiologists, and nurses—so desperate fathers don’t have to make these kinds of choices.
Dr Novick was recently interviewed by the BBC World Service about our work in Libya, watch this video and see the impact you can make if you continue to support us.
Today (March 21st) has been dedicated as World Down’s Syndrome day by the United Nations. Nearly half of all children born with Down’s Syndrome will have a heart defect as well. The Novick Cardiac Alliance is committed to bringing sustainable health care solutions to all children with cardiac disease in the developing world.
“Persons with disabilities, including those with Down syndrome, are more than persons in need of assistance; they are agents of change who can drive progress across society – and their voices must be heard as we strive to reach the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Ban Ki-moon Secretary-General of the United Nations
Cardiac Alliance operate on children with Down’s Syndrome in 11 countries around the world this is about 12% of all the children that we operate on every year. This is not enough! We need to reach more children and we need your help to do it. Children with Down’s Syndrome are more than a collection of symptoms or a disease and like the rest of the population they learn at school, have interests, hobbies, talents, friends and relationships. Down’s Syndrome occurs in all races, religions and economic situations but when a child with Down’s Syndrome cannot get the Cardiac care they need their world becomes smaller and restricted- they cannot play or go to school or make friends – they are also much more likely to die in childhood. We are celebrating Down’s Syndrome day by renewing our commitment to meeting the needs of this unique and valuable group of children. Join us in our celebration Donate financially today or volunteer with us and help us reach more children like these!.
From the moment a trip begins, precise preparations for every operation begin: instruments are sterilized, equipment is checked, hands are washed, surgical gowns and masks are secured, lights are adjusted—each in a very particular way.
When the patient is ready, surgeons open the chest, assess the exact nature of every heart defect, make each delicate stitch to repair the heart, all the while being aware of any subtle changes in the patient’s condition, and finally closing up the chest to cover a repaired heart. Two surgeons scrub in for each surgery—it takes more than one set of hands to perform a successful operation.
It’s easy to think of heart surgeries as solo shows—a single surgeon the only player onstage.
In reality, heart surgeries are complicated choreographies, and everyone involved is essential.
Before any surgery takes place, the cardiologist sees the patient, diagnoses any heart defects, and recommends candidates for surgery.
Inside the operating room, the scrub nurse prepares patients, manages instruments, and maintain a scrupulously sterile environment for surgery. Anesthesiologists administer the fluids which keep patients asleep for just the right amount of time and keeps a close eye on levels. Perfusionists manage the heart-lung machine, and keep blood oxygenated during surgery. The blood bank manager ensures there is enough life-giving supplies at hand. And a biomedical engineer is always at the ready, keeping complicated machinery running smoothly.
In the Intensive Care Unit, critical-care doctors and nurses treat healing patients, continuously measuring heart rates and fluids. The respiratory therapist keeps lungs functioning well and helps to prevent complications like pneumonia. X-ray and lab technicians provide the evidence needed to fully manage care.
In the Step-down Unit, the last phase of in-hospital treatment, further monitoring takes place to manage patient wellness, and parents are trained how to best care for their children so they can go home as quickly as possible.
Behind the scenes, there are further layers, including those who clean the hospital, sterilize instruments, wash sheets, and more.
Skilled surgeons are essential to every operation, of course! Dr. Novick and our surgical staff brings tens of thousands of hours of training and experience to every operation. There is no surgery without surgeons!
But it’s also true that without cleaners, there is no surgery. Without sterilized instruments, there is no surgery. Without bagged blood and plane tickets and filled syringe pumps, there is no surgery.
In this complicated choreography, everyone is essential—including you! Without your generous donations, there is no surgery. You help to make all of this happen! Give today.
It was a small news article, easy to miss. Turkish hospitals and hotels are refusing to receive any new patients from Libya. The debt has grown too high, as Turkish hospitals treated more than 8,000 Libyans sent to them for care, and the bills have not been paid.
Why are so many Libyans sent out of country for care? After too many years of civil war and instability, and the growing presence of ISIS, the health care system in Libya is unable to cope.
Syria and Iraq get the bulk of media attention, but life in Libya is difficult for many. Half of the population has been directly affected by war. Two million residents are in need of health services, and there are nearly three quarters of a million refugees and displaced people in Libya.
Large organizations like the World Health Organization are focused on delivering basic care to large swaths of the population—providing childhood vaccines and preventing communicable diseases.
But with limited hospitals functioning in Libya, a shortage of health care workers, and limited funding, children with acute health needs like those born with heart defects can’t get care.
That’s where we come in.
We aren’t afraid of the challenges in Libya. In fact, this is a country where we can make a real difference!
We provide surgeries for children with the most complicated heart defects—saving lives. We perform surgeries in-country, which is not only cheaper than sending patients out for treatment, but keeps precious dollars and resources in Libya where it’s so needed.
We provide local doctors and nurses with the expert training they need. They are able to learn global best practices, from some of the world’s best practitioners, within their own communities. This hands-on learning is put to work immediately, saving the lives of Libyan children.
We provide continuity, returning throughout the year to care for more children and to further the education of local health care professionals. In a place so unstable, our continued presence provides needed stability!
In the face of civil war, instability, ISIS, and massive systemic needs, we aren’t running away.
In fact we’re investing further. Join us in making a real difference by donating today.
Teaching and learning is woven into every part of surgical missions. It begins first thing each day with morning rounds. Cardiologists, surgeons, intensivists (critical care doctors, trained to treat the most critical patients), intensive care nurses—international and local—collaborate on diagnoses and treatment strategies for each patient.
Throughout the day, local staff are trained by our team in the whole range of patient care, from the first moment a child is admitted to hospital until the moment they are released. They have the chance to put learning into practice immediately. And we are able to guide their learning, giving as much practice as needed until skills are mastered.
Teaching is a key program element for Novick Cardiac Alliance. And NCA is uniquely positioned to do this well.
Our full-time staff and volunteers have studied and practiced in the United States, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, and around the world. Each is continuously studying to keep up with latest studies and developments in their fields. Each is experienced in the best practices from their own countries.
Our staff and volunteers have worked in the most cutting-edge, modern hospital settings. They have also worked in developing countries with rudimentary equipment. They have worked in peaceful settings, and have worked during outbreaks of war, as IV poles swayed beside operating room tables because of bomb blasts. Countless hours of working in the best conditions, the most basic, and the whole range between have given our team the skills to work anywhere.
Over the years working together—across diagnostic machines, operating tables and recovery beds—we continue to learn from each other. Our staff and volunteers—from different countries, with different experience and backgrounds—share best practices with each other. Because of this, we are able to practice and teach international best practices to local doctors and nurses.
In creating Novick Cardiac Alliance, Dr. Novick recruited an international group of professionals who are clinical experts in pediatric cardiac care—yes. He recruited a group who share a passion to help end the suffering caused by congenital heart disease in the developing world—true. He also recruited a group of professionals who are curious, keen to study, and are always learning.
And it is exactly this unique synergy, created by international professionals eager to learn, and open to learning the best from each other, that is making such an impact in places like Libya.
When others see Libya, they see civil war, ISIS, and the political and financial instability that has crushed Libya’s health system.
We see that too. But we also see talented cardiologists, surgeons and nurses eager to learn more—eager to be skilled enough to look after their people without outside help.
We are investing in that day—join us!