Iakobwa Now Learns to Walk; Shriners Brings About Miracle

Iakobwa Kabong could only walk on his knees and shuffle around on pieces of cardboard back on Christmas Island in Kiribati before he was admitted to Shriners Hospital for Children in Honolulu. And he didn’t have use of his hands. He would push himself forward on his knuckles and use the cardboard like a sled along the rough ground.

Iakobwa in wheelchair at airport heading home after more than a year at Shriners Hospital for Children in Honolulu.

Iakobwa in wheelchair at airport heading home after more than a year at Shriners Hospital for Children in Honolulu.

After a little more than a year at Shriners Hospital and multiple surgeries, Iakobwa (pronounced ya-ko-bah) can now stand and has use of his hands. With exercises and the use of a walker, he should soon be walking on his own, say the doctors at Shriners.

Iakobwa, now 18, was brought to Shriners under a program initiated with Shriners and Pacific Islands Medical Aid several years ago. Shriners takes care of all medical needs and we at Pacific Islands Medical Aid provide financial help for food, lodging, local transportation and translation services.

“We are eternally grateful to Shriners Hospital, it’s leader Dr. Craig Ono, MD and all the physicians, nurses and support staff involved in Iakobwa’s miracle,” said Carlton Smith, president of Pacific Islands Medical Aid (PIMA). “And thanks to our many good hearted donors who helped make this happen.”

Iakobwa needed a dozen surgeries to help correct his malformed legs and hands, Smith said, and he was able to spend more than a year at the hospital in Honolulu with his mother during that time.

Intrepid PIMA volunteer Kaitibo Timon in Honolulu, who was born in Kiribati, helped with translations and local transportation during the entire time, Smith said.

After hundreds and hundreds of hours of therapy, Iakobwa was sent on his way back to Christmas Island with a walker, wheelchair and electric scooter… all thanks to Shriners Hospital for Children!

Shriners nurse and social worker Cindy Shimabukuro said Iakobwa first arrived at Shriners Hospital in Honolulu on April 25, 2017 with a diagnosis of arthrogryposis. “He has undergone many procedures and surgical interventions since his arrival and the young man who came to us unable to stand and would walk on his knees, is now able to stand and walk short distances with a walker.

Throughout his stay, she said, Iakobwa has demonstrated strength and dedication to work toward his goal of walking. She also credits Iakobwa’s mother who was his ‘biggest cheerleader.’

“They were wonderful members of our Shriners Family Center always supporting others. We already miss this family’s positive attitude and strength,” she said.

PIMA Heart Team Sees 177; Nine Require Cardiac Surgery

Our intrepid heart team has returned home after seeing 177 patients in a week’s time on isolated Christmas Island in the central Pacific, where they identified nine needing life-saving surgery.

Nine heart patients heading for surgery. Plans are underway now to bring the nine patients to Baylor Scott White Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas for surgery, says team leader cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. David Moore, M.D.

Team members on the island were divided into small units for their one-week stay and were able to perform 176 heart echoes on adult patients and 975 rheumatic heart disease-screening echoes for children at local schools on the island.

In addition, team members offered educational talks to teachers and students about rheumatic heart disease, its causes and cures… where many islanders suffer as a result of undiagnosed and untreated rheumatic fever in children that results in heart disease later in life.

Counseling Patient: Volunteer cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. David Moore, M.D., counsels patient on Christmas Island after tests show the patient needs heart surgery to correct the effects of his rheumatic heart disease. In just one week, the PIMA Heart Team saw 177 patients with 176 echos and 9 patients identified for surgery back in the U.S.

Counseling Patient: Volunteer cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. David Moore, M.D., counsels patient on Christmas Island after tests show the patient needs heart surgery to correct the effects of his rheumatic heart disease. In just one week, the PIMA Heart Team saw 177 patients with 176 echos and 9 patients identified for surgery back in the U.S.

“We are really proud of our professional team members who volunteered time and expertise in helping the good people of Kiribati, where the need it great,” said Carlton Smith, president of Pacific Islands Medical Aid.

The physician and medical officer in charge for the Kiribati Ministry of Health on Christmas Island, Dr. Teraira Bangao, says ‘the team worked very hard when they were here… they did a great job… starting out each day at 8:30 a.m. and working straight through to 6 p.m.”

“We are so thankful to the team members and everyone at Pacific Islands Medical Aid and look forward to their next visit,” he said.

In this humanitarian outreach, Dr. Moore and his team of heart surgeons at Cardiac Specialists in Plano, Texas and Baylor Scott White Heart Hospital in Plano will provide surgeries and hospitalization for the patients, while Pacific Islands Medical Aid provides all housing, meals and local transportation in the Dallas area for the patients and their chaperones, and the Kiribati Ministry of Health provides round trip airfare.

Please help support this life-saving program with your donation. Here is Dr. Moore’s report.

By Dr. David Moore, M.D.

Rheumatic heart disease remains a major global health concern primarily affecting young adults in the developing world.

This is particularly true in many of the islands of the central and western Pacific.

Our team from Baylor Scott White Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas recently returned to Kiritimati (Christmas Island) in the Republic of Kiribati with the support and coordination of Pacific Islands Medical Aid.

 

Team members included Dr. David Moore, CV surgery; Dr. Steve Mottl, cardiology; Michael Rampoldi, echo cardiographer, Candice Rampoldi, echo assistant and echo data collection; Amy Moore, trip coordinator and data management; Sherry Swanson, Baylor Heart Hospital social services; and Tom Roma, school education program.

Little Ones Included: All islanders, young and old, showing signs of possible heart disease were checked out by our volunteer heart team on their most recent visit to Christmas Island in Kiribati, where nine were identified for life-saving heart surgery back in the U.S.

Little Ones Included: All islanders, young and old, showing signs of possible heart disease were checked out by our volunteer heart team on their most recent visit to Christmas Island in Kiribati, where nine were identified for life-saving heart surgery back in the U.S.

In the course of our week on the island, we functioned as two teams; one evaluating patients in the clinic at Ronton Hospital and the other focusing on education regarding prevention of rheumatic heart disease (RHD) as well as echo screening in the primary schools.

Echo screening of asymptomatic children allows for early detection of RHD with the identification of subtle abnormalities in the heart valves. Children with these findings can then be started on prophylactic penicillin injections preventing subsequent episodes of Strep Throat and thus avoiding further immune response and valve damage.

A total of 950 children were screened by our team over a period of four days. At the same time, children, teachers and some parents received education on the prevention of RHD, emphasizing hand washing, appropriate coverage for cough, and the need to see a physician or nurse for treatment of sore throats.

At the clinic, our team evaluated and obtained an echo on 175 patients. Two children with congenital heart disease were identified, three adults with probable coronary artery disease and eight patients with rheumatic heart disease were diagnosed.  The adult patients will be brought to Baylor Scott White Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas for additional testing and surgery. The children with congenital heart disease will be referred to an appropriate facility for surgical correction.

Our team appreciates the opportunity to continue this good work made possible by Baylor Scott White Health Care System, the Republic of Kiribati Ministry of Health and Pacific Islands Medical Aid.

We are grateful to the people of Kiritimati (Christmas Island) for their warm hospitality and support.