February is Heart Month! Watch this special message from Dr. Novick.
February is Heart Month! Watch this special message from Dr. Novick.
David is 15 months old and has been fighting to survive against all odds. David was born in Nigeria, which is a country without a pediatric cardiac surgery programme. Children in Nigeria who need a heart operation have to wait until a foreign team visits their country and hope that they are put on the short list.
David had a very complex heart disease called Truncus Arteriosus (the Goliath of this story) and for most visiting teams this was not a type of surgery that they would perform on a short surgical trip. Not because they did not want to but because they knew that David would take a long time to recover in the ICU as he would be very weak and sick
At Cardiac Alliance we believe that empowering the local team to care for children like David is just as important as performing multiple surgeries on a trip. During the first week of our recent trip to Nigeria we worked with the amazing team of nurses and doctors in the ICU in and helped them to prepare to receive a baby as delicate as David
David had surgery at the beginning of our second week and he did very well. He was very sick but the local Nigerian nurses learned how to care for him quickly. One nurse would sit beside him and rub his feet until he fell asleep because it was important to keep him calm – we said that she was better than any medicine!David won his battle- and with your help we can continue to care for children like David as they fight to live healthy and happy lives. We hope to make many more trips to Nigeria in the next few years, Volunteer with us or Donate today to make this possible.
Imagine working in a hospital where the sound of nearby gunfire is a daily occurrence. Where equipment and supplies are rationed and nothing is thrown in the bin ever. Where nurses have to make their own sterilising solution and alcohol hand-wash.
Where nursing autonomy is greater than in most other healthcare settings – nurses have full authority to act in accordance with their professional knowledge , are competent and courageous to take charge in every situation, are incredibly skilled and beyond amazing at dealing with the daily frustrations of this type of work. This outlines the time I spent in Libya with Novick Cardiac Alliance. Whilst not my first trip of this kind, the complex political and security climate in Libya made it perhaps the most challenging trip I’ve taken part in. It was frustrating, exhausting, difficult, scary, and incredibly rewarding and enjoyable all at the same time.
I had the pleasure of working with the most skilled and knowledgeable health professionals I’ve ever encountered and learnt something new every day. In the two weeks that I was there, Cardiac Alliance operated on 17 children that would otherwise not have been given the opportunity to have lifesaving cardiac surgery. Before I left for Libya, I was continuously asked: “Why would you go to a country at war with itself, you must out of your mind?!” Maybe that is true? But I’d do it again and again without hesitation. For the children that can be saved, for the families that are just like mine and yours and deserve equality of medical care, for the nursing skills and knowledge obtained, for the many children still in Libya that await future Cardiac Alliance trips to have their hearts fixed too. Time and time again I meet the most inspirational people in countries that most people wouldn’t dream of visiting – Thank you to all at Cardiac Alliance for welcoming me into your team and helping to make this trip a success. And to the Libyan children and their families- Thank you for teaching me more than I can ever possibly give. Volunteer with Cardiac Alliance and be part of saving lives today!
Libyan children are under threat from all sides, but you can help us protect them. Take two minutes to donate toward saving and serving a child by clicking here.
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!
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Juliana 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our first mission to the city of Tobruk, Libya was a huge success!
As Dr. Novick put it: “It wasn’t a particularly difficult or eventful trip…but the locals REALLY appreciated us being there.”
After 16 successful cases, closing ceremonies involved a lot of hugs, cake, selfies, and hand shakes. Thanks to all of our donors, volunteers, staff, and supporters who helped make it possible—we’re grateful for all of you!
Here’s a quick update from Dr. Novick and the team, now en route home:
We’re leaving Libya today after providing the final two operations on Thursday, both extubated by 8 p.m., The Benghazi Medical Center team is staying behind for a few days to get all the children discharged from the hospital. We all flew to Al Bayda, then from there we spread out across the globe to our homes on Saturday. We spent a few hours with the Libyan Minister of Health discussing the needs at Tobruk Hospital so it is better prepared for our next trip. The Kharkiv team finishes up today as well and will head home tomorrow. Next up, Honduras and Macedonia starting end of next week. I will be traveling to Tehran, Iran and Tashkent, Uzbekistan over the next month to review sites for future assistance, wish me luck. —Dr No
A few more photos from the trip: