Thanks to the efforts of dozens of hospital personnel and other volunteers, six more critically-ill heart patients from the central Pacific nation of Kiribati are now well and back home again.
Open-heart surgery at Baylor Heart Hospitals in Plano and Denton, Texas saved them all.
This third group of heart patients from Kiribati will now be followed by another group of five, scheduled to arrive in Plano later this month. Each group must remain in the U.S. for about a month to allow sufficient time for post surgery recovery. Most all will require heart valve repair or replacement.
All of this is made possible by the dozens of hospital physicians, nurses and others at Baylor Heart Hospitals, your donations to Pacific Islands Medical Aid (PIMA), and the Kiribati Ministry of Health.
Humanitarian team leader, cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. David Moore, MD of Cardiac Surgery Specialists in Plano, Texas, joined by cardiac sonographer Michael Rampoldi and nurse Amy Moore, together with PIMA president Carlton Smith, traveled to islands in Kiribati last October to locate and diagnose seriously-ill heart patients there.
More than 40 patients were identified, mostly suffering with heart valve disease, brought about by early and untreated rheumatic fever.
The trip to the U.S. for patients is an eye-opening one, considering most have never left their home village. Patients must get from their home island by boat or plane to the Kiribati capital of Tarawa, then fly from Tarawa to Nadi in Fiji. From NadI, they are bused four hours to Suva and interviewed the following day at the U.S. Embassy to get their U.S. visas.
From Suva, they go back to NadI and fly onward to Los Angeles and then to Dallas.
“We owe special thanks to personnel at the U.S. Embassy, and especially to vice consul Mr. Jeremias Dirk in Suva who has gone out of his way to expedite the visa process for these urgent heart cases,” said PIMA president Carlton Smith.
Invaluable help has also been provided by Ms. Sherry Swanson, LMSW, manager of Comprehensive Care Management for the Baylor Heart Hospitals in Plano and Denton, Texas, who has helped organize and coordinate surgery schedules, and patient care.