Hundreds of children prone to heart disease in the isolated central Pacific will be seen by Pacific Islands Medical Aid volunteer cardiologists as the Heart Team returns to Christmas Island in Kiribati later this month, it was announced.
Under the direction of Dallas cardiologist Dr. Alistair Fyfe, the six-member team will perform ultra-sound assessments on as many adolescents as possible , see PIMA’s previous open-heart surgery patients, do a defibrillation on one young man who’s heart is out of rhythm, check the pacemaker in one of PIMA’s earlier heart patients, and see new heart cases.
The team will work with Kiribati doctors Teraira Bangao and John Tekanene while on Christmas Island and see children at each of the island’s two high schools and middle school, Dr. Fyfe said.
He said of particular concern is the high rate of heart disease among the islanders, apparently the result of earlier untreated rheumatic fever. “Often, young mothers die in childbirth because their diseased hearts cannot take the stress,” he said.
Dr. Fyfe said the high incidence of heart disease was noted on PIMA’s earlier Heart Team visits to the islands 18 months ago, resulting then in the transport of 12 critically-ill islanders to Dallas for life-saving open heart surgery. “All of the patients are reported doing extremely well, but we need to check them,” Dr. Fyfe said.
The one-week-long expedition will include Dr. Fyfe, Dallas cardiologist Dr. Brian Eades, two cardiac care nurses from Baylor Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas, Denni Lozos and Deanna Holik, as well as ultra-sound technician Beaux Seabury of Dr. Fyfe’s Cardiology Associates of Dallas, and Carlton Smith, president of Pacific Islands Medical Aid, Inc.
It is hoped also that heart patients from the neighboring islands of Tabuaeran ( Fanning ) and Teraina ( Washington ) can be brought to Christmas Island for evaluation, Dr. Fyfe said.
“It will be a really busy week,” Dr. Fyfe said, “but I think we will be able to accomplish everything we have set out to do.”