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Volunteer Story – Lacy Holevis

Volunteer Story – Lacy Holevis

Lacy Volunteered on our recent trip to Nizhny in Russia.Lacy with Team members

I’ve always wanted to do some type of volunteer work and this organization really caught my attention because they strive to educate and support hospitals and staff about pediatric cardiac care around the world. I’ve e been a PICU/CICU nurse for seven years now and I am passionate about taking care of children with cardiac defects. I love to learn about other cultures and how medicine and nursing are practiced in other countries. This organization is perfect for me because it gives me an opportunity to do both of those things while helping children at the same time. I also enjoy educating the local staff in other countries about how to take care of these children in the postoperative period. Teaching them how to do a good nursing assessment, take frequent vitals and showing them how to take out drains, lines and wires. The organization’s staff is wonderful and very knowledgable and I really enjoy working with them and learning from them.I would recommend any nurse that takes care of pediatric cardiac patients to go on a trip with this organization.  It’s so rewarding!

Lacy and BabyVolunteer with Cardiac Alliance and make a difference  today.
A Mother’s Wish

A Mother’s Wish

Brenda Kingsley is a mother who volunteers with Cardiac Alliance- here she shares her story with us.

Mother’s Day is very special to me, I have been blessed with five children and each of them have changed my life greatly. In 2004, I was pregnant with my fourth child and had gone in for a routine ultrasound. I was excited to see the baby, hear its heartbeat and find out whether it was a boy or girl.  However, the news my husband and I received wasn’t the exciting news that I thought we’d get. We were told that there was something wrong with our baby’s heart; hearing that was devastating. At the time, we lived in Alaska and were told that our baby would need to be born in Oregon in order to get the medical care she would need. We of course wanted the best care for this baby; we’d go anywhere and do anything to make that happen.

Hannah Spring 2009 049

My daughter, Hannah, was born in Portland, Oregon at 35 ½ weeks. She had her first open heart surgery at 8 days old, had her second surgery at 6 months old and she had her third surgery at 4 years old.  Our fear and anxiety grew with each surgery, not knowing if she would survive. Hannah was so tiny and the surgeries she underwent were tremendous. Seeing her after surgery with all the tubes and wires was heartbreaking.  When Hannah was a baby, she didn’t feed well, she slept more than the average healthy baby and she would turn a dusky blue color when she cried.  As Hannah grew, she couldn’t keep up with the other kids her age, her face always had a blue tinge, she easily got sick and she was a lot smaller than other kids her age. Watching my daughter struggle to survive on a day to day basis was hard; I smiled like everything was fine, but on the inside I was dying.  As a mom, my priority is to comfort my kids, protect them from as much as I can and whenever I see one of my children hurting, it hurts me down to my very core.  I would do anything for my children, they are my world. Living in the United States, I was able to find the medical care that Hannah needed and I am so thankful for the doctors and nurses who took care of my baby. This was the best gift that anyone could have ever given me.

Munam's mother worried

As this Mother’s Day quickly approaches, I want to challenge you to think outside the typical Mother’s Day gift and give a gift of hope to a mother who doesn’t have the resources that I had for my child. More than 90% of the world’s children born with congenital heart defects do not have access to life-saving care. These mothers are unable to provide the care for their children as the financial burden of traveling to America or Western Europe for the proper medical care is more than they can bare and the local doctors do not have the proper training to care for the child. Imagine being a mom in an underprivileged country, watching your sweet baby struggle to survive and knowing that the proper medical care is not available. The pain and anguish of that must be unbearable.  These are moms who love their children and want to give them the very best. Moms who want to see their kids grow up to be strong and healthy.  This Mother’s Day, consider giving a mother hope.  Hope that her child will get the medical care that they need. Imagine how life changing that hope would be to the mother, the family and to that precious child.

Munam and his mom after surgery

Help us make this Mother’s Day truly special for many families around the world by supporting Novick Cardiac Alliance. Our team of highly trained doctors and nurses are working to establish pediatric cardiac care units all over the world, where many children can be properly diagnosed, treated and cared for after surgery. Your generous donations will make this life-saving care possible for many children. Do something special this Mother’s Day and give a gift of hope!Matvey and mother

A Journey for Hijar

A Journey for Hijar

We had just begun our trip in Iraq and were in the ICU setting up and waiting for our very first patient when Dr Novick arrived with one of the cutest children we have ever seen. Her name is Hijar and she is one year old. Hijar was born with a hole between the top chambers of her heart and for most children this is a condition that will not need to be treated until adulthood. Hijar’s family knew she had a heart problem but that she could wait a few years before she needed an operation.

Hijar pre- op

 

Then one morning Hijar’s mother noticed that her baby was ‘tired’ and not really moving much and then Hijar collapsed- her family rushed her to a hospital in Basra and found that her heart was beating very slowly and she needed an operation immediately to save her life. They were told to take her to Baghdad but with the fighting so near to that city the family were afraid and then someone told them that there was a foreign team of heart specialists in Nasiriyah who might help them. The family immediately drove the 3 hours south and asked the hospital to let them see the foreign team.

The ICU

Hijar was admitted straight to the ICU where we stabilised her and operated on her the same day- we inserted a pacemaker to increase her heart rate and while we were there we also fixed her other heart problem so she never had to have another operation again! Hijar left the ICU the next day and went home with her parents just 3 days later.

Hijar after surgery

There is no hospital in the south of Iraq that is capable of operating on young children or babies independantly and for most families the idea of travelling North, nearer to the ISIS held areas is frightening. For Hijar this story has a happy ending but there are thousands of young children in Iraq who need our help.

You can Help us to continue our work in Iraq and be in the right place at the right time for more children like Hijar. Donate today or Volunteer with us and change a life.

A Dedication

A Dedication

In December 2005 Dr Novick and a team of professionals made the first of what would be 17 surgical trips to the Armed forces institute of Cardiology (AFIC) Rawalpindi, Pakistan. As with any new endeavor we had high hopes for this centre but none of us could have imagined what they would actually achieve.

The PICU

Within 2 years they had doubled the number of successful surgeries they were performing on children in their region and now – 10 years later – they offer a state of the art facility and standard of care that is comparable to institutions in Europe and the United States. Last year more than 700 children received treatment at this site and the team help to facilitate training to other hospitals in the region.

Pakistan Collage of photos

This year Dr Novick’s team was invited back to work at AFIC as they want to improve the care they provide to more complex children. While we were there AFIC held a dedication ceremony for the new Pediatric Cardiac Surgery facility. To our great surprise this facitlity was dedicated to Dr Novick- it was a very humbling experience for us all.

The dedication from AFIC

Dr Novick said:

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would, have a pediatric cardiac surgical wing dedicated to me and my colleagues- at least not in my lifetime!!. Well it has happened! Our work in Pakistan was rewarded with just such a dedication. I remember drawing the plans on a napkin between cases with the Surgeon General of Pakistan in 2006 and now I am standing here! Thank you to all of our colleagues and friends at AFIC for this great honour it is humbling beyond words.

Dedication with AfzalJoin us this year as we visit more new sites and continue to make Happy Hearts around the world.

 

Sasha’s Dream

Sasha’s Dream

We would like you to meet Aleksandra or ‘Sasha’ as she is known to her friends. Sasha is 14 years old and was born with heart disease and for 14 years that has been the most important fact in her life. Because Sasha was born in Russia she did not receive the treatment she needed when she was a baby. If Sasha had been born in the USA or Europe then she would have had surgery in infancy and may not even know she had a heart problem.

Sasha and heart Diagram

The disease that Sasha had is called Partial Anomolous Pulmonary Venous Drainage and this causes children to have poor exercise tolerance and frequent respiratory infections, affects the quality of their life and would lead to death in early adulthood if untreated. Although complex to operate on initially the corrective operation for this is easily taught, and very few children will with this problem will need any further surgery and can expect to live a normal life. The local Russian surgeon under the guidance and supervision of Dr Novick did Sasha’s operation himself and in the future other children like Sasha can be treated early in childhood.

Mary Ann teaching local nurse Nadia

 

At Cardiac Alliance we believe that teaching local healthcare teams to perform surgery and care for these complex children is just as important as performing lifesaving heart surgery ourselves. Sasha was one of 15 children who received an operation on the recent trip to Russia and clinical and educational support was provided to the local Russian team 24 hours a day. We plan to visit the same hospital 3 more times this year.

Cardiac Alliance Volunteers and Local Russian team

Sasha wants to be a doctor and until this year that was a dream that she did not think would come true. Sasha was lucky,  she had an operation, which completely healed her heart and now she is ready to experience life to the full.

Help us to make more children’s dreams possible: Volunteer with us or Donate today, You can make a real difference to children just like Sasha!

 

3 Days in the Life of Juliana

3 Days in the Life of Juliana

This is Juliana, she is 2 years old and has been sick for all of her life. She was born in Ukraine and her parents have worried about her since they found out she had a heart defect as a baby. Juliana could not play like other children and got tired very easily. She is a very determined little girl though , her parents say she is

‘a real little lady’ and already knows what she wants!

Juliana before surgeryJuliana was born with Aortic Valve Dysplasia (an abnormal aortic valve) and had an Aortic Valvuloplasty (repair of the valve) during the recent Novick Cardiac Alliance trip to Ukraine. Specialists from Cardiac Alliance have been working consistently with the team in Ukraine for 6 years and this operation was performed completely by the Ukrainian surgeon Dr Olga Buchneva with guidance and support from the Cardiac Alliance team surgeon, Dr Marcelo Cardarelli.

After 2 long years of waiting Juliana had her operation on 10th of February this year and just 2 hours after coming to the intensive care unit she began the serious business of coloring and drawing.

Julia colouring

Despite having such a big operation Juliana only had to spend one day in the intensive care unit and was on the ward by the next day. Just two days later she was not only doing well – she was trying to ride a trike! As her parents have said she really knows what she wants and now her heart is as healthy as her spirit! We believe there will be no stopping this little girl – her suffering is in the past and the sky is her limit.

Juliana 2

Help us to ease the suffering of more children like Juliana. Novick Cardiac Alliance are currently supporting the development of quality pediatric cardiac care services in several countries around the world, there are many more children, just like little Juliana, waiting for our help. Click here to Donate or give two weeks of your time and expertise as a Medical Volunteer.

Volunteer Story- A Vision of Nursing

Volunteer Story- A Vision of Nursing

By Amalie Smith

I’m not sure how to begin writing about my first volunteer trip with Cardiac Alliance. I could write about my feelings throughout the two weeks, the experience of working with the local nurses, the awesome Cardiac Alliance staff, patient stories, and more.

The first thing that struck me is the reality of having limited supplies and resources. At home, our stock seems endless. When I run out of something on the unit, I call central supply and get more. If we ran out, we’d have to get creative and make do with what we had by cutting, taping, cleaning and reusing, or simply going without. For example when we ran out of blood test cartridges, we had to rely on accurate physical assessment skills instead of lab tests. In addition to limited material supplies, I was stripped of my usual informational resources. When questions arose, there was no internet or computer to look up the answer. My team members became my sole resource.

Amalie teaching in ICU

The incredible teamwork and teaching that occurred are the other major things that stick out in my mind. I was the youngest and least experienced nurse in the group – both at working in PICU and at doing any sort of medical volunteering. Even so, I always felt supported by the other nurses, the nurse practitioner, and the intensivist. We all worked in the same room together, which at times was cramped and hectic. However, I think it led to better teamwork and teaching as everyone was always right there to lend a hand or to answer a question.

Amalie with other team members
Another thing that really struck me was how the doctor and NP on the trip often pitched in with things that are considered “nurses duties” at home. Without even asking, they would jump in and help transfer patients out of bed, figure out how to use pieces of equipment, or draw up medications. Most importantly, they were some of the best teachers I’ve spent time with.  It seems to me that this mutual respect and trust are the reasons why the Alliance staff nurses are so amazingly knowledgeable, critically thinking and confident.

Amalie in Theatre Libya

The thing I missed most about working at home was my ability to easily communicate with parents and children. One of the most rewarding things about nursing is comforting a worried mother, so a major language barrier can make you feel useless. Sometimes the only thing I could do was put my arm around a mother, and tell her that the baby was doing well using one or two Arabic words.

Amalie in ICU LibyaAs the other nurses had predicted, I initially felt very disoriented and scared to be without my hospital’s supplies, protocols and resources. But in the end,

I learned what pure nursing looks like.

It was challenging work, and I felt like a new graduate again at times but I believe it’s what I needed to get a vision of the kind of nurse that I can strive to be. I honestly hope I get the opportunity to go back for more.

A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities

Cardiac Alliance has been working in Tobruk, Libya and Kharkiv, Ukraine over the last few weeks and we have operated on 43 children in these 2 cities.

Both Libya and Ukraine are experiencing uncertainty and conflict that many of us will struggle to imagine. However, it is not so hard to imagine the heartache that a parent feels when they have a sick child. These mothers and many like them in developing nations all have a child with a congenital heart defect and are faced with the real possibility that their child will never receive surgery.

Sad baby Libya

The Novick Cardiac Alliance strives to help these parents and so, despite the conflicts, we have been working in these countries to provide much needed surgery and care to children.Though we feel a sense of satisfaction in being able to help these children we also feel a sense of urgency and disappointment-  Because for every child that receives surgery there are many many more that will not.

Small baby and nurse

The sad truth is that some children will die waiting. We all have the power to change a life together and give a family a brighter future.

Donate your time and expertise by volunteering with us  or give today and save a life.

 

Meet ‘Inoperable Marwa’

Meet ‘Inoperable Marwa’

As an infant, they heard a heart murmur.

But, after being examined at a local Libyan hospital, they cleared Marwa, saying she was perfectly healthy. But Marwa’s mother was never convinced.

With the eyes of a mother, she noticed how breathless Marwa became after short walks, how she turned blue when exercising. The family went in for another exam and found Marwa had a large VSD.

But then began the real challenge: finding surgery in a war-torn country after years of lost time.

The family looked abroad for surgery options, but as soon as doctors saw her pulmonary hypertension, they wouldn’t touch Marwa. Fellow Libyans in Tripoli refused, Egyptians refused, Jordanians refused. All said she was inoperable.

When they presented her to us, they thought she was hopeless, but they couldn’t stop trying.

Back in 2012, Marwa became the first double flap valve patch repair done in Libya when Dr. Novick and his team visited Benghazi. She did extremely well, has grown, and her follow up has been “perfectly unremarkable” according to Dr. Novick.

Marwa at her recent check up in Tobruk, Libya
This week, we followed up with Marwa and got to hear how she’s doing (not to mention the sweets her mom made for us!). Her mother still pays close attention and is delighted at the change in her daughter.

This the kind of impact we’re having in Libya, one child at a time! February is Heart Month—help us continue breaking new ground and saving children like Marwa by making a donation here.

Marwa at her recent check up in Tobruk, Libya