Blog : operating room

Surgery and Beyond

Surgery and Beyond

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.

Happy child after surgery
Happy child after surgery

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.

Dr. Novick collaborating with team
Dr. Novick collaborating with team

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!

Frank teaching Macedonian team
Frank teaching Macedonian team

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.

Team members from Libya
Team members from LIbya

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.

Volunteers in hospital
Volunteers in hospital

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!

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 Week Full of Firsts

Dr. Novick and Dr. Oakley, the Libyan Ministor of Health in the operating room
There’s something thrilling about a first-ever!

And when your hospital has never performed open heart surgery, you get a lot of firsts. This week, Cardiac Alliance is in the Libyan town of Tobruk, and the locals are all smiles at how much they’ve accomplished alongside our team in just a few days: a first-of-its-kind medical training mission in their city, the first open heart surgery in their city (adult or pediatric), and, most importantly, the first time they’ve been able to provide for their own children locally, without having to send them away.

The Tobruk and Benghazi team pose for a picture
Even after hundreds of trips and serving thousands of children, launching a new program never gets old! Come back over the next few days to see more excitement from Libya, and be sure to follow us on Facebook for real-time updates from around the world.

The Cardiac Alliance team members in Tobruk, Libya
The Cardiac Alliance team members in Tobruk, Libya
The Cardiac Alliance team members in Tobruk, Libya
The Cardiac Alliance team members in Tobruk, Libya