Heart Team: More Than 40 Saved

More than 40 lives have been saved to date by our Pacific Islands Medical Aid heart surgery program, thanks our donors, the leadership of cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. David Moore of Baylor Scott White Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas and dozens and dozens of great volunteers.

What began as an outreach to Christmas Island in the isolated nation of Kiribati several years ago has grown to encompass the wider island nation of 33 islands in the Central Pacific where many young patients suffer with heart valve disease, brought about by untreated rheumatic fever when they were very young.

“Among all of the medical programs we have undertaken,” I think we are most proud of the heart surgery initiative,” said Carlton Smith, PIMA president.

With the help and support of the Kiribati Ministry of Health, our team has visited the islands with diagnostic tools to identify the most urgent cases and arrange for them to be brought to the U.S. for open heart surgery, Carlton said. Team members, led by Dr. Moore, include cardiac sonographer Michael Rampoldi of Baylor Scott White and nurse Amy W. Moore.

Your donations have allowed us to provide housing, at Homewood Suites in Plano, meals and local transportation, while dozens of supportive surgeons working with Dr. Moore and medical professionals at Baylor Heart Hospital have pulled together to make this happen.

“It is our hope to be able to return early next year to Christmas Island and neighboring isolated… and seldom visited… outer islands of Tabuaeran and Teraina,” Carlton said.

HeartGift Austin to the Rescue

Two little children diagnosed with congenital heart defects by members of our PIMA Heart Team in Tarawa late last year will be literally saved by HeartGift Austin this month.

Under the direction of HeartGift’s national patient coordinator Ms. Sonya Skilling, the two patients, their mothers and Kiribati Ministry of Health nurse are scheduled to arrive in Austin Oct. 15 so that the children can have life-saving heart surgery there.

Two year old Iotua Nenetaake, a little boy from the isolated atoll in the Central Pacific called Nikunau, was diagnosed with a ventricular septal defect.

Bwabwane Meeia, 10, from the island of Tarawa, was also found to have a congenital heart defect.

“We are forever grateful to HeartGift Austin and Ms. Skilling for organizing and underwriting this life-saving effort”, said Carlton Smith, PIMA president.

Shriners Honolulu Helps Little Boy Who Walks On His Knees

Bandages Off - With surgeries on Iokabwa's hand and arm completed, bandages come off.

Bandages Off – With surgeries on Iokabwa’s hand and arm completed, bandages come off.

For years now, every time one of our Pacific Islands Medical Aid team would visit Christmas Island in Kiribati, we would encounter Iokabwa. a little boy who walks on his knees.

He would move about sometimes while sliding on the ground on pieces of cardboard, a task made much more difficult because his hands and wrists were turned inward, a condition he was born with.

Iokabwa’s mother has appealed to us over the years for help. We recorded his condition and consulted with many orthopedic surgeons and others… to no avail.

We encouraged members of Shriners Hospital for Children in Honolulu, and its leader, Dr. Craig Ono, to visit the island and examine patients who might be helped by them.


Iokabwa on Arrival - Iokabwa arrives at Shriners in Honolulu with his mother (at right). On left is PIMA hostess Nei Rerei Timon.

Iokabwa on Arrival – Iokabwa arrives at Shriners in Honolulu with his mother (at right). On left is PIMA hostess Nei Rerei Timon.

Dr. Ono believed then that Iokabwa could be helped and held out hope that with proper care, he could walk upright. Hand surgeries, too, could help.

Iokabwa has now been through several surgeries at Shriners Hospital, with emphasis first on his hands. Surgeries underway now are concentrating on his legs, where surgeons there believe he will be able to stand upright soon.

“It’s a miracle,” his mother says.

We are enormously grateful to the wonderful people at Shriners Hospital in Honolulu for Iokabwa and other children from the central Pacific island nation of Kiribati who they have helped, says Carlton Smith, PIMA president.

Under an agreement made three years ago, Shriners provides all medical care, the Kiribati Ministry of Health provides round trip airfare and we at Pacific Islands Medical Aid pay for local housing, meals and transportation when needed, provided by a wonderful couple in Hawaii, Rerei and Kaitibo Timon.

Please help us continue to support this great program, Carlton said.

Upcoming Missions


PIMA is planning a unique and comprehensive diabetes training and treatment program on Christmas Island in Kiribati, starting later this year… where more than 30 percent of adults suffer from Type 2 Diabetes ! It is hoped that we may be able to return twice a year to continue this mission.



Our Women’s Health Team is hoping to return to Christmas island in November to continue it’s cryotherapy program to identify and freeze uterine pre-cancer cells in adult women.



We hope to bring our Ophthalmology Team back to the Line Islands in Kiribati early next year to perform cataract and pterygium surgery. More than 50 cataract cases have been identified on Christmas Island this year. And we hope to send an advance team to the outer islands of Teraina and Tabuaeran earlier, under the direction of our volunteer physician Dr. Larry Falk. We have performed more than 200 cataract surgeries on the islands in the last five years, under the leadership of Ophthalmologists Dr. Paul Jorizzo and Dr. Paul Imperia of Medford, Oregon.