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Help save these islanders; Eight need urgent heart surgery

It’s not often we can join together to literally help save the lives of our fellow human beings… but here is our chance.

On his team’s most recent visit to Christmas Island (Kiritimati) in the central Pacific in March, Pacific Islands Medical Aid volunteer cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. David Moore and cardiac sonographer Michael Rampoldi examined more than 300 islanders … found many needing follow up care and eight needing life-saving heart surgery.

Of the eight, most require open-heart surgery to replace or repair heart valves. Dr. Moore explains that most suffer the consequences of early undetected and untreated rheumatic fever as children… resulting in heart disease as young adults.

Baylor Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas, together with Dr. Moore and the hospital physicians and staff there have agreed to provide all the medical care as part of their humanitarian outreach program. We at Pacific Islands Medical Aid need to arrange and pay for local housing, meals and transportation for the patients during their five-week stay in the Plano area.

As plans stand now, the entire group plus a chaperone physician from the Kiribati Ministry of Health, Dr. Baranika Temariti, are scheduled to depart Christmas Island, fly to Honolulu and onward to Dallas, arriving in the early morning of June 1.

Dr. Moore said surgeries for most will be scheduled for the first week, with outpatient care and recovery time afterward. He said he expects the patients will be able to return home about July 4.

“Here is a chance to do something direct and meaningful to help save lives,” said Carlton Smith, president of Pacific Islands Medical Aid. “We ask our friends to join together by making a contribution to this worthy project.”

Meet the Patients

Mary Olivia Itaaka, 23, mother of one small child, suffers from severe aortic insufficiency and needs aortic and mitral valve replacements requiring open-heart surgery.
Mary Olivia Itaaka, 23, mother of one small child, suffers from severe aortic insufficiency and needs aortic and mitral valve replacements requiring open-heart surgery.
Ueaata Tekaiti, 40, is a schoolteacher on Christmas Island who has been getting weaker and weaker. She will require two new heart valves.
Ueaata Tekaiti, 40, is a school teacher on Christmas Island who has been getting weaker and weaker. She will require two new heart valves.
Rawaa Tebeia is 46 and lives with her children and grandchildren on Christmas Island. She needs a mitral valve replacement and tricuspid valve repair.
Rawaa Tebeia is 46 and lives with her children and grandchildren on Christmas Island. She needs a mitral valve replacement and tricuspid valve repair.
Bwarereiti Bwatika, 29, is unable to work and support his family on Christmas Island due to his worsening condition. He needs two new heart valves.
Bwarereiti Bwatika, 29, is unable to work and support his family on Christmas Island due to his worsening condition. He needs two new heart valves.
Baintaake Atanibeia is just 26, is married and has two children. She and her family live on an isolated island in the central Pacific called Teraina, where there is no airport and ships seldom call. Baintaake needs an aortic valve replacement and possible aortic root replacement in order for her to live for many more years.
Baintaake Atanibeia is just 26, is married and has two children. She and her family live on an isolated island in the central Pacific called Teraina, where there is no airport and ships seldom call. Baintaake needs an aortic valve replacement and possible aortic root replacement in order for her to live for many more years.
Benateeta Kamon is just 12 years old but already has severe rheumatic heart disease and needs two new heart valves to survive.
Benateeta Kamon is just 12 years old but already has severe rheumatic heart disease and needs two new heart valves to survive.
Notia Remweru, 43, has an end-of-life pacemaker and requires a new generator. She received her pacemaker in 2009 in a Pacific Islands Medical Aid-sponsored trip to the U.S. led by Dallas cardiologist Dr. Alistair Fyfe.
Notia Remweru, 43, has an end-of-life pacemaker and requires a new generator. She received her pacemaker in 2009 in a Pacific Islands Medical Aid-sponsored trip to the U.S. led by Dallas cardiologist Dr. Alistair Fyfe.
Patrick Rikaua is a good carpenter on Christmas Island but his weakening heart makes it more difficult to work. He has a congenital heart defect, requiring open heart surgery to repair.
Patrick Rikaua is a good carpenter on Christmas Island but his weakening heart makes it more difficult to work. He has a congenital heart defect, requiring open heart surgery to repair.

Heart Team Examines 300+; Six Need Surgery Now, 5 Later

By Dr. David Moore, MD, Cardiothoracic Surgeon

Rheumatic heart disease continues to be a major health issue in the developing world. This is particularly true on the small island known as Kiritimati (Christmas Island), one of the islands in the Republic of Kiribati.

Heart Examinations Underway - Kiribati Director of Hospital Services, Dr. Burentau Teriboriki (left) observes heart patient examination as PIMA volunteer cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. David Moore of Baylor Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas (right) diagnoses patient's heart valve functions. Cardiac Sonographer Michael Rampoldi (center) completed more than 300 echo readings during the heart team's visit to Kiritimati in March, with many islanders needing intervention.

Heart Examinations Underway – Kiribati Director of Hospital Services, Dr. Burentau Teriboriki (left) observes heart patient examination as PIMA volunteer cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. David Moore of Baylor Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas (right) diagnoses patient’s heart valve functions. Cardiac Sonographer Michael Rampoldi (center) completed more than 300 echo readings during the heart team’s visit to Kiritimati in March, with many islanders needing intervention.

In this remote region of the Central Pacific, strep throat infections are unrecognized and untreated, leading to an immune response and clinical condition known as Acute Rheumatic Fever. This immune reaction results in damage to the mitral and aortic valves of the heart over time. It is thought that repeated and untreated Strep infections increase the risk of damage to the heart valve and lead to Rheumatic Heart Disease.

This condition ultimately will cause heart failure and death in later life. Open-heart surgery is required to replace these damaged valves and restore the patient to a better quality of life as well as improved life expectancy.

The purpose of our recent mission to Kiritimati was to identify patients with severe Rheumatic Heart Disease and make arrangements through Pacific Islands Medical Aid, Inc., to bring them to Baylor Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas for surgery.

We also wanted to make an effort to identify children with early echo findings of Rheumatic Heart Disease, which would allow us to treat them with prophylactic penicillin, thus preventing the recurrent infections, which are known to cause the progression of the valve damage.

In the course of the week that we were on Kiritimati, we saw more than 300 patients, did 298 echos with our portable echo equipment, and identified six patients in need of surgery now, as well as another five that will require an operation at some point in the future.

Still Thriving - These four beautiful island ladies from Kiritimati are doing well, enjoying their children and grandchildren, thanks to the life-saving open-heart surgery they underwent at Baylor Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas five years ago. After a check-up on the island last month by PIMA volunteer cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. David Moore from Baylor Heart Hospital, each was pronounced healthy and fit. Your donations paid for airfare, housing, meals and local transportation in Plano for these and others from the island. Five more will be coming in June. Please help.

Still Thriving – These four beautiful island ladies from Kiritimati are doing well, enjoying their children and grandchildren, thanks to the life-saving open-heart surgery they underwent at Baylor Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas five years ago. After a check-up on the island last month by PIMA volunteer cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. David Moore from Baylor Heart Hospital, each was pronounced healthy and fit. Your donations paid for airfare, housing, meals and local transportation in Plano for these and others from the island. Five more will be coming in June. Please help.

Nine children were found to have early evidence of Rheumatic Heart Disease and will be started on prophylactic penicillin. We also established an electronic database, which will enable us to follow these patients closely in the future.

In an effort to expand our initiative, we are planning to make another trip to Kiribati later in the year to the more populous island of Tarawa. The Kiribati Ministry of Health is enthusiastic and supportive, as there is a great need in that region.

Our team found the people of Kiritimati to be warm and most appreciative of our efforts on the island. Many thanks to Pacific Islands Medical Aid president Mr. Carlton Smith for organizing and supporting our trip, and of course my appreciation to our cardiac sonographer Michael Rampoldi, his son Jourdan, my wife Amy and daughter Sarah for their hard work and kind spirit which made the week a real success.

Renowned Heart Surgeon Volunteers on Isolated Isle

In the Republic of Kiribati, islanders suffer at an early age with heart disease, the result of early-undiagnosed rheumatic fever.

Without help to mend or replace diseased heart valves, many suffer and die in their 20s and 30s.

To save lives and help reduce suffering, highly-regarded cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. David Moore and his team from Baylor Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas will travel to isolated Christmas Island (Kiritimati) later this month to see and treat as many heart patients as possible, in a trip sponsored by Pacific Islands Medical Aid, Inc.

Thanks to Dr. Moore and his colleagues at Baylor Heart Hospital, islanders found to be needing urgent life-saving surgery will be treated at the hospital in Plano, Texas.

“We are absolutely thrilled at Dr. Moore and his team will be there to provide care where there is a critical need,” says Carlton Smith, president of Pacific Islands Medical Aid, Inc.

This will be the third time that Baylor Heart Hospital has stepped forward to help those suffering with heart disease in Kiribati, one of the most isolated and medically needy regions of the world, Carlton said.

On this one-week visit November 25 to December 2, he will take with him an ultrasound technician, James Rampoldi, from the Baylor Hospital, and portable equipment to properly diagnose heart patients.

While this will be Dr. Moore‘s first visit to Kiritimati in the Line Islands of Kiribati, he has contributed his skills in the past to perform successful open-heart surgery at Baylor on several patients from the islands needing life-saving help.

“The good-hearted people at Baylor will provide all medical care, but we need to raise funds to bring patients from the Central Pacific islands to Plano and back and provide housing and meals for them while they are in the U.S., Carlton said. On average, it will cost about $2,000 each for round trip airfare, plus another $500 for lodging and meals.

“Please help save precious lives by making a contribution to Pacific Islands Medical Aid and designate the donation for ‘heart patients.’

Thank you!