Life-saving heart surgeries for islanders from the nation of Kiribati in the Central Pacific have now been completed at Baylor Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas and at Medical City Hospital for Children in Dallas.
By this writing on June 17, all surgeries have been completed successfully, mostly for heart valve replacements, according to Carlton Smith, PIMA president.
Dr. Baranika said, “this has been a remarkable undertaking, for which we and all the people of Kiribati are grateful.”
“Plans now call for all patients to continue their recovery in the Dallas area and return to their home island July 5,” Carlton said. “One patient, who received two artificial heart valves and began recovery, developed pancreatitis several days after surgery and will be required to remain behind for recovery and rehabilitation,” he said.
Dr. Moore, with the help of cardiac sonographer Michael Rampoldi, diagnosed these eight heart patients on an earlier expedition to Christmas Island in the Line Island group of Kiribati and recommended urgent surgery to save their lives.
With help from officials at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and with all documentation, special visas were granted the group on humanitarian grounds.
Most have suffered the effects of untreated rheumatic fever which attacks the heart valves years after initial infection, so that parents who don’t seek medical attention when their infant contracts rheumatic fever, or if antibiotics are not available… the disease lingers, sometimes for years before heart valve damage is discovered.
“For these fortunate islanders diagnosed by Dr. Moore and Michael, prospects for a long, normal life are now good,” Carlton said.
Among the patients is 13-year-old Benateeta Kamon, who received aortic and mitral valve replacements in a surgery at Medical City Hospital for Children in Dallas by pediatric cardiology surgeon Dr. Eric Mendeloff. The surgery lasted seven hours and required expansion in the heart to accommodate an adult size artificial heart valve. “She is out of the hospital and doing great,” Dr. Baranika said. “Hats off to Dr. Mendeloff, his team, and Medical City Hospital.”
Notia Remweru, 43, needed a new battery for her pacemaker, which she received at Baylor by Dr. Alistair Fyfe, MD. When told that her new battery will now last for about seven years, she said she was disappointed that the doctors didn’t put a new battery in that would last for only one year … so she could return to Texas once a year!
Baintaake Atanibeia is just 26, is married with two children and comes from a very remote island called Teraina… with no electric grid, no running water and seldom called on by a passing ship. Baintaake received an aortic valve replacement, bounced back from open-heart surgery, is feeling great and awaiting her trip home.
“Heart surgeons at Baylor Heart Hospital, including Dr. Moore in the lead, together with Dr. Katherine B. Harrington, M.D., Dr. Robert L. Smith, M.D., and Dr. William T. Brinkman, M.D., deserve our eternal gratitude for saving the lives of these wonderful young people,” Carlton said. “And that goes for all the nurses, staff members and Baylor Heart Hospital.”
Bwarereiti Bwatika, 29, received two artificial heart valves, but remains hospitalized with pancreatitis. His heart is now strong.
After several days in the hospital following open-heart surgery for two heart valves, Rawaa Tebeia, 46, is now bouncing back, despite her previous heavy smoking and damage to her lungs.
Young Mary Olivia Itaaka, 23 and the mother of two, is recovering fast after two new heart valves. School teacher Ueaata Tekaiti, 40, who now has a new aortic and mitral valve, is also doing great.
Patrick Rikaua, 28, was born with a hole in his heart, but with corrective open-heart surgery, can now look forward to a long, normal life.
“We are absolutely thrilled and grateful to those wonderful physicians, nurses, hospital staff members and the hospitals that made all of this possible,” Carlton said.