Blog : Volunteer

David and Goliath

David and Goliath

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 with Dr Novick

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 sickNurse led rounds in the ICU

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 DavidNurse Princess caring for 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!Nurse comforting DavidDavid 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.

Volunteer Story – Caitlin Walker

Volunteer Story – Caitlin Walker

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. Caitlin working hard!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. Caitlin with Cardiac Alliance teamBefore 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. Caitlin assessing a babyTime 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.  Caitlin with Libya team   Volunteer with Cardiac Alliance and be part of saving lives today!

Volunteer Story- Christine

Volunteer Story- Christine

By Christine Motschman Wanner

Dedicated to my heart warriors Ellie and Kurtis!

Christine

Why do I travel and volunteer in some of the most “undesirable” tourist destinations in the world on my vacation time?

 It is difficult to pinpoint the exact reason why I chose to take time from my busy life to “vacation” Tobruk, Libya, where I find myself currently, but the rewards are most definitely more valuable than anything imaginable.

Most people I know ask why would you go to such a place on your vacation time? First and foremost it is the children and their families, it is the same reason I work at my job in the United States but with a very large difference. These children are born into countries and situations where not even one surgical option exists. They are lacking a solution. The local medical professionals need knowledge to perform surgery and care for their children.

Christine with local team I first heard of Dr Novick when I was a new nurse, at a seminar at my hospital through Children’s Heart Link, but waited until my 5th year as a PICU nurse to actually sign up and travel on a team. I have since traveled with Dr Novick, 14 times and am always mezmorized by the knowledge and compassion he carries within himself as he inspires medical professionals from around the globe to volunteer their time to help the children. Dr Novick and his team do not only mend these tiny hearts but also look at ways to provide sustainable healthcare solutions in these countries.

Christine receives award from local hospitalIn Libya I had the honor to work alongside Dr. Novick and to me a “dream team” of international health care professional volunteers, I reconnected with local colleagues and met new Libyan health care professionals. It is wonderful to see their growth as health care professionals and their true compassion for furthering their education, even in the most desperate of situations with an on-going civil war. This idea is what draws me to Dr. Novick and his team as this is what I see is the most important aspect of these trips.

Children with parentsI am fortunate to be able to travel to places I never dreamed of visiting and have forged a “family of friends”, both from Cardiac Alliance and local team members, whom I will always have a special connection. So, while Libya may not be the top tourist destination in the world, I will leave this trip with an experience which is very special and heart-warming, to know I have directly impacted the health and future of the Libyan children.

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

Meet Our Cardiac Alliance!

Meet Our Cardiac Alliance!

Dear Friends,

Dr No at a child's bedI am writing to introduce you to a new non-profit charity founded by me and those who wanted to further my dream to help children around the globe with congenital heart disease.  After 22 years of operating on 7500 children in 32 countries with International Children’s Heart Foundation, a significant number of us have left and continued the original vision by founding the William Novick Global Cardiac Alliance (NCA).  NCA was founded in October 2014 by 18 individuals who wanted to continue the mission of operating on children with heart disease, educating our colleagues in developing nations and above all helping to foster sustainable solutions to pediatric cardiac care. We are, by choice, non-sectarian in our approach so that all may receive care or volunteer to help.
Happy Baby with heart picture
The necessity of founding NCA did not slow us down but encouraged us to continue to be better and to work harder to reach our goal.  We have over 30 Cardiac Alliance trips scheduled for 2015 and will be adding more countries in coming years. We aim to provide comprehensive care to all children with congenital or acquired heart disease regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, political ideation, genetic factors or economic means.

YOU are our “heart”, the pumping force of our organization without YOU we would not be able to extend our services around the world. With this letter I am extending an invitation to all of you to join us in our endeavors to mend little hearts through volunteering, donating, or spreading the word in your community.

Warm Regards from our Founding Board:

Faces no logo

William Novick, MD MS;  Brian Forsberg, MPH CCP; David Wieduwilt, BME CE; Elizabeth Novick, BSN, RN; Eugene Suslin, MD; Farzana Shah, BSN, RN; Frank Molloy, MSc, RN; Humberto Rodriguez, MD; Igor Polivenok, MD PhD; Jean Towne; Karen Bowtell, PGDip, RN; Kathleen Fenton, MD;  Marcelo Cardarelli, MD MPH; Martina Pavanic, BSN, RN; Pavel Shauchenka, MD; Siarhei Liauchonak, MD; Sri Rao, MD; Stacey Marr, MSc, RN

Team in Libya

 

 

 

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.

 

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.