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HeartGift Austin to the Rescue

Two little children diagnosed with congenital heart defects by members of our PIMA Heart Team in Tarawa late last year will be literally saved by HeartGift Austin this month.

Under the direction of HeartGift’s national patient coordinator Ms. Sonya Skilling, the two patients, their mothers and Kiribati Ministry of Health nurse are scheduled to arrive in Austin Oct. 15 so that the children can have life-saving heart surgery there.

Two year old Iotua Nenetaake, a little boy from the isolated atoll in the Central Pacific called Nikunau, was diagnosed with a ventricular septal defect.

Bwabwane Meeia, 10, from the island of Tarawa, was also found to have a congenital heart defect.

“We are forever grateful to HeartGift Austin and Ms. Skilling for organizing and underwriting this life-saving effort”, said Carlton Smith, PIMA president.

Shriners Honolulu Helps Little Boy Who Walks On His Knees

Bandages Off - With surgeries on Iokabwa's hand and arm completed, bandages come off.

Bandages Off – With surgeries on Iokabwa’s hand and arm completed, bandages come off.

For years now, every time one of our Pacific Islands Medical Aid team would visit Christmas Island in Kiribati, we would encounter Iokabwa. a little boy who walks on his knees.

He would move about sometimes while sliding on the ground on pieces of cardboard, a task made much more difficult because his hands and wrists were turned inward, a condition he was born with.

Iokabwa’s mother has appealed to us over the years for help. We recorded his condition and consulted with many orthopedic surgeons and others… to no avail.

We encouraged members of Shriners Hospital for Children in Honolulu, and its leader, Dr. Craig Ono, to visit the island and examine patients who might be helped by them.

 

Iokabwa on Arrival - Iokabwa arrives at Shriners in Honolulu with his mother (at right). On left is PIMA hostess Nei Rerei Timon.

Iokabwa on Arrival – Iokabwa arrives at Shriners in Honolulu with his mother (at right). On left is PIMA hostess Nei Rerei Timon.

Dr. Ono believed then that Iokabwa could be helped and held out hope that with proper care, he could walk upright. Hand surgeries, too, could help.

Iokabwa has now been through several surgeries at Shriners Hospital, with emphasis first on his hands. Surgeries underway now are concentrating on his legs, where surgeons there believe he will be able to stand upright soon.

“It’s a miracle,” his mother says.

We are enormously grateful to the wonderful people at Shriners Hospital in Honolulu for Iokabwa and other children from the central Pacific island nation of Kiribati who they have helped, says Carlton Smith, PIMA president.

Under an agreement made three years ago, Shriners provides all medical care, the Kiribati Ministry of Health provides round trip airfare and we at Pacific Islands Medical Aid pay for local housing, meals and transportation when needed, provided by a wonderful couple in Hawaii, Rerei and Kaitibo Timon.

Please help us continue to support this great program, Carlton said.

Thanks to Sherry Shaw and CryoLife

Critical to our success with heart patients from the central Pacific are the new heart valves needed to replace defective human valves in the dozens of islanders brought to the U.S. needing life-saving surgery.

CryoLife cardiovascular specialist Sherry Shaw of Plano, Texas and the firm she represents, On-X Life Technologies, Inc., have been absolutely essential in our humanitarian program by donating world-class artificial heart valves to Pacific Islands Medical Aid (PIMA) through Baylor Heart Hospital and our team leader, cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. David Moore.

“We cannot thank Sherry enough for organizing her company’s fabulous donations and for her continuing support of this worthwhile program, ” said Carlton Smith, PIMA president.

Sherry said ‘it is a humbling honor to be part of such a worthwhile PIMA endeavor with such an excellent heart team and hospital.”

CryoLife is a leader in tissue processing and medical devices, such as the On-X prosthetic heart valves used in cardiac surgical procedures, Carlton said.

PIMA Supports Bio-Med Training

One of the most challenging aspects of PIMA’s donations of much needed medical equipment to small hospitals in isolated islands in the Pacific is the maintenance and repair of the equipment.

Young bio-medical technician Taaren Toanikai from tiny Ronton Hospital on Christmas Island in Kiribati struggles with this each day, but is now getting some much needed help, thanks to the generous opportunity offered him by Ukiah Valley Medical Center Hospital in Ukiah, California.

Thanks to our long-time surgical volunteer, Dr. Larry Falk from Ukiah Valley Medical Center and it’s president Gwen Matthews, and your donations to provide round trip airfare, Taaren will get the help he needs.

Taaren arrived in Ukiah last week and begins his five week long training right away, Dr. Falk said.

Dr. Falk said Taaren will participate in the daily activities of the biomedical department there, under the direction of Jack Smiley. He will receive hands-on instruction on operational procedures, safety procedures and repair and maintenance techniques for hospital equipment with particular emphasis on the equipment at Ronton Hospital.

He will also receive instruction in computer networking, repair and maintenance and will be coached by Dr. Falks’ wife in use of the English language in interpreting installation and repair manuals and communicating with consultants and colleagues.

We are really happy for Taaren and thank Dr. Falk and everyone at Ukiah Valley Medical Center for giving him this opportunity. And thanks, too, for your donations to Pacific Islands Medical Aid, Inc. to help make this happen, says Carlton Smith, PIMA president.

All Successful, Heart Patients Head Home

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.

Surgery Follow-Up - Team leader Dr. David Moore, MD, checks his patient immediately after surgery, along with Kiribati Ministry of Health chaperone Nurse Taabiti Anrake, who accompanied the patients from Tarawa.

Surgery Follow-Up – Team leader Dr. David Moore, MD, checks his patient immediately after surgery, along with Kiribati Ministry of Health chaperone Nurse Taabiti Anrake, who accompanied the patients from Tarawa.

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.

Going Home Celebration - Kiribati heart patients and friends join together for a going-home celebration hours before their departure from Dallas, sponsored by Ms. Sherry Shaw (at right), heart valve specialist with On-X Life Technologies, donors of the On-X heart valves. Also in back row is team leader and cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. David Moore, MD and PIMA president Carlton Smith.

Going Home Celebration – Kiribati heart patients and friends join together for a going-home celebration hours before their departure from Dallas, sponsored by Ms. Sherry Shaw (at right), heart valve specialist with On-X Life Technologies, donors of the On-X heart valves. Also in back row is team leader and cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. David Moore, MD and PIMA president Carlton Smith.

“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.

Heart Surgeries Save Islanders

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.

Team Leaders: Our team leader,Dr. David O. Moore, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon with Cardiac Surgery Specialists, attached to Baylor Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas is shown with Kiribati Dr. Baranika Temariti, OB/GYN, who accompanied the eight heart patients to Texas from Christmas Island (Kiritimati).

Team Leaders: Our team leader,Dr. David O. Moore, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon with Cardiac Surgery Specialists, attached to Baylor Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas is shown with Kiribati Dr. Baranika Temariti, OB/GYN, who accompanied the eight heart patients to Texas from Christmas Island (Kiritimati).

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.

Here is Benateeta exiting surgery, and with cardiologist and Dr. Baranika three days after surgery. She should be released this Friday, after Coumadin levels are achieved.

Here is Benateeta exiting surgery, and with cardiologist and Dr. Baranika three days after surgery. She should be released this Friday, after Coumadin levels are achieved.

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.

Team Leaders: Our team leader,Dr. David O. Moore, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon with Cardiac Surgery Specialists, attached to Baylor Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas is shown with Kiribati Dr. Baranika Temariti, OB/GYN, who accompanied the eight heart patients to Texas from Christmas Island (Kiritimati).

Team Leaders: Our team leader,Dr. David O. Moore, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon with Cardiac Surgery Specialists, attached to Baylor Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas is shown with Kiribati Dr. Baranika Temariti, OB/GYN, who accompanied the eight heart patients to Texas from Christmas Island (Kiritimati).

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.

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.