Blog : Libyan crisis

Cardiac Alliance Begins Pediatric Cardiac Program in Western Libya

“’In Libya, there are several thousand children that need heart surgery, including hundreds of new-borns’, says Dr. Novick. That is why, with the support of the Presidency Council and the UN’s World Health Organization, Dr. Novick has launched a one-year national program, hoping to treat more than 400 Libyan children’s hearts.”

Read more in this article featuring Cardiac Alliance’s work in Libya, by United Nations journalist Abel Kavanagh.

 

UNSMIL/Abel Kavanagh

A Story or Two for Ayat!

A Story or Two for Ayat!

Ayat was born with a heart defect. Within minutes of her birth, trained specialists were at her side caring for her. After discussing Ayat’s condition, the doctors decided to operate on her twice: a partial correction immediately and a full repair after 6 months. Ayat did well through both surgeries, doctors have cared for her all of her life and she is healthy and happy.

Dr's discussing Patients

At least, that should be her story.

But Ayat was born in Libya in the midst of a civil war. She was born six weeks early and spent the first month of her life in hospital. Ayat’s mother was told her baby had a problem with her heart, but the hospital did not have the equipment to find out what the problem was or anyone who coud treat her heart. Ayat finally went home six weeks after she was born—she was still sick and struggled to breathe and gain weight.

Baby Ayat before surgery When Ayat was two months old her parents travelled to Benghazi to see one of Libya’s few pediatric cardiologists, Dr Naema, and she advised urgent surgery and started some medicines that would help. Ayat’s parents struggled with what to do next—they have three other children who need to be cared for and traveling to Tripoli was out of the question–the region is just too unstable. Ayat’s parents decided to go to Egypt and search for help there.

In Egypt, they were again told just how sick their little girl was and that surgery was the only way to save her life. The wanted her to have the surgery but in Egypt the cost of the surgery was $40,000—way out of their reach. And so they returned home to Libya with little hope of saving their baby.

Then in May of this year, Dr Naema from Benghazi called and told them that a foreign team of cardiac specialists would be traveling to Tobruk to do heart surgery on children and she wanted them to bring Ayat to see what could be done. Ayat was seen by the Cardiac Alliance team in the second week of May and had the first of the two operations she will need to fix her heart. Ayat was so sick by the time she finally had surgery that she spent a month recovering in the ICU in Tobruk with our Cardiac Alliance team. But there is a happy ending to this story- Ayat is now well and at home with her parents.

Nurse Stacey and Ayat

Ayat Recovering in ICU

Ayat Going HomeAyat has had to struggle to survive—we are very glad she is a little fighter. Together, we can make it possible for children like Ayat to have the first story! At Cardiac Alliance we train local Doctors and Nurses to look after children with heart disease wherever they are and you can help.

Help us change the story for children like Ayat around the world by volunteering with us on our next trip or Donate financially today and be a part of giving Happy Beginnings  as well as Happy Endings.

Volunteers Reflect On Their First Surgical Mission

Volunteers Reflect On Their First Surgical Mission

The Novick Cardiac Alliance team celebrating after a successful mission

Our most recent trip to Libya was truly groundbreaking.

The first open heart surgery in the city’s history and a hospital flooded with camera crews to document the occasion showed just how thrilled the local Libyans by this first mission, but this was also a first for some of our volunteer nurses. Of all places, Angela and Amalie chose war-torn Libya for their first volunteer experience with the Cardiac Alliance.

Here are a few of their thoughts on the whole experience:

How did nursing in Libya compare to nursing back home?
Angela: “I enjoyed how much more time we had to actually pay attention to our patient. Back home, so much time is spent charting everything.”

Amalie: “It’s really cool to see how much you can do with pure assessment and vital signs. Back home, we send for diagnostic tests from the lab constantly, and it helps. But everything felt more efficient not having to jump through so many hoops.”

Twinkies in Libya!

What made the work challenging?

Angela: Culturally, the accountability and the sense of time was so different.

Amalie: I loved getting to work alongside the locals in terms of cultural exposure, but communication with locals was a big challenge.

I started out frustrated with the local nurses, like they were just a tag-along making my work slower and a bit harder, but I began to realize how valuable they are to the team, especially if you allow and trust them to have responsibilities.

Twinkies in Libya!

Thoughts on training the Libyan nurses?

Amalie: When you do the work for them, they don’t feel accountable. When you give them the responsibility to do it on their own, they can rise to the occasion and it’s amazing to see.

Stacey told me to make a plan with the nurses I was overseeing, and that worked well. I could leave for a couple hours at a time, and when I checked back they’d done everything right. Setting expectations ahead of time really helped.

How did you find working with Dr. Novick’s team?

Angela: In general, Dr. Novick’s team was really supportive and fun. They weren’t intimidating to approach. I was surprised by how well they all knew each other.

Amalie: I remember handing a little boy to his mother and was impressed that Pasha (ICU Intensivist) was right there helping position chest tubes and IV lines. No doctor back home would be that involved, helping handle the patients.

Twinkies in Libya!

Highlights of your time in Libya?

Angela: I loved getting to work with the locals. I’d like to experience more of the culture, and I enjoyed visiting Libya because it isn’t a place I could easily travel on my own.

Amalie: It was really cool hanging out with the local nurses, Fatma and Naima, outside of the hospital. It’s great getting to know locals outside of the ICU.

Would you do it again?

Angela: I’d do it again, but I probably wouldn’t come back to Libya. It’s a little more challenging and restrictive than I thought it would be.

Amalie: I may come back to Libya, but I’d like to work in a few other places. I think the main reason I’d come back was to work with the Novick Cardiac Alliance regulars. They’re just really cool and really experienced and fun to be around.

Final thought?

Amalie: This is real nursing. On trips like this, you do things because they need to be done, not just because it’s protocol or a hospital standard. I think that’s what made this all feel so ‘pure’—it’s all about the patient rather than following protocols for their own sake.

Amelie caring for a baby in Tobruk, Libya

Angela caring for a baby in Tobruk, Libya