The picture of a child with a healed heart is a simple expression of our purpose, however what is often more difficult to show is the ‘behind the scenes’ work we do that is vital to the success of our programs. At Cardiac Alliance we believe that by educating and collaborating with local healthcare teams, we can help to build sustainable pediatric cardiac care services that are capable of caring for hundreds of children with heart defects every year.
The surgery is fascinating and the children are cute but it is the collaboration with the local staff and the growth we see in their team that we, the Cardiac Alliance staff and volunteers find the most exciting.
Each trip begins with the arrival of the Cardiac Alliance team. On our recent trip to Macedonia, Frank Molloy our PICU Nurse Practitioner and Educator first walked our volunteer team through the surgical unit in the hospital and shared the local protocols. Frank could see many changes that had occurred in the 2 months since our last visit- better organization of supplies, two new nurses, the newly developed quick guide “cheat sheets” for the team to refer to, even new decorations in the Pediatric ICU!
With each patient, the Cardiac Alliance team makes sure that the local nurses and doctors are thoroughly involved. The local team in each site already has methods that they are used to and comfortable with and our international volunteers will have come with experience and new ideas to share. We believe that by encouraging the local team to walk through the problem and offer solutions themselves with the assistance of our team, we teach more than we could with a list of orders or a checklist.
On our trips, time is rarely disposable so a lot of the learning is done hands on in the clinical setting though we often hold lectures and small workshops. The key to a successful trip is the development of professional relationships with the local team built on mutual respect, understanding and a common goal. We plan to visit each of our partner sites multiple times per year for several years and with time the local team becomes more independent and confident in their ability to manage the patients. This model of sustained, intermittent support has been very successful for us and now a number of our volunteers come from previously assisted sites.
At Cardiac Alliance we believe that every child matters but doing surgery on one child is not enough! By educating local healthcare professionals and empowering them to provide high quality care in their own region utilizing the available resources, we can ensure that the next hundred children (and the hundred after that) with heart disease have hope and access to the care they each deserve no matter where they are born. You can be a part of changing lives! Volunteer with us or Donate today and help us fill the world with Happy hearts!
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.
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.
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.
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!
Dilya Cleveland was 11 years old when she first met Dr Novick and his team – 20 years later she has shared her story with us.
Although my surgery was performed in September 21, 1995, my mind holds strong memories and that experience will never be forgotten. I was visiting my local cardiologist since I can remember myself and I will never forget the day when my local doctor informed my parents and me that without the surgery I have only 6 months to live. It was July 1995. My parents were trying to gather money and possibly take me to Europe for the surgery, but financial situation was difficult and, honestly, I don’t think that it would’ve been possible. But God was looking over me and at the end of July my local cardiologist told us that the team of american doctors will be coming to Kazakhstan and performing free of charge cardiac surgeries. I was chosen to be one of their patients. My parents, all my relatives and I were absolutely thrilled with the news!
Dr. No and his team arrived in beginning of September. I remember first time I saw Dr. No- he seemed so tall and his hands were so big compare to mine. He came in to the ward to evaluate a little baby with TOF and I was wondered how can a man with big hands can perform surgeries on those little babies – it seemed magical and almost impossible to an eleven year old girl. Dr. No was a wizard. He made impossible possible. And not only in the eyes of a child, but also in the eyes of my parents. Till this day my mom remembers how Dr. Novick was reassuring her that I will be able to live a normal life and not to worry about my heart defect any longer. And he was right, he kept his promise!
The surgery and the whole experience not only gave me a second chance in life, but also gave me a purpose in life and helped me choose my future career. After the surgery I was interested in congenital heart defects, surgeries and medicine in general. Shortly after the surgery I started reading medical books and journals, and made a firm decision to pursue a career in the medical field. However, I had to walk different paths before I finally graduated as RN. Shortly after graduation I accepted a position as Peds ICU RN. While I was in nursing school, God gave me another gift – the ability to reconnect with Dr. Novick and become a volunteer on his team.
There will be never enough words to say thank you to Dr. Novick and his team for saving my life, the only way I can express my gratitude is to serve and help people in need through my job and volunteering.
You can help too- Donate to Cardiac Alliance or Volunteer with us and help more children like Dilya become whatever they want to be!
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.
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.
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.
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!