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Healing Hearts Northwest has recently returned from their third trip to Kigali, Rwanda to perform open-heart surgery. 2012 brought many changes for our mission and fewer surprises as our experience over the last 2 missions helped us to prepare. This year we completed 17 open-heart surgeries, with our patients ranging in age from 7 years old to 32 years (the average age was 17 years old). This was our youngest group of patients and therefore we prepared by adding 2 pediatric nurses and a pediatric cardiologist. All the surgeries went well and patients recovered quickly.
This year we planned to have more participation of Rwandan staff and we were able to decrease our overall staff numbers from 54 in 2010 to 37 this year. The team was equally balanced with 18 new staff and 19 returning staff. This change in staffing is part of our goal to develop a sustainable independent Rwandan cardiac surgical program. This required a commitment from both the Spokane team to expect more of their efforts to be devoted to supervising and training as well as King Faisal Hospital dedicating their staff to our team for the 2 weeks we were in Rwanda. Our team was very excited to see the skills and participation of the Rwandan nurses greatly improved and they were able to manage their own patient load with minimal supervision. In addition, the surgical team included a newly trained Rwandan anesthesiologist and perfusionist. A Rwandan physician has also been sent to South Africa to complete a cardiac surgical residency and fellowship. Although the Rwandan’s still rely on outside support for a cardiac surgical program, the government and King Faisal Hospital have made a commitment to working toward their goal of an independent program.
During our trip this year Ambassador Donald Koran made a special visit to King Faisal Hospital to see our patients and talk to us about the program. All the patients from the Telemetry Unit came out to greet him and there was a great exchange of greetings and discussion about their stay at the hospital and how they were all doing. Along with the ambassador were representatives from the CDC and USAID. Officials from the hospital included the CEO, Dr. Alex Butera, the head of surgery Dr. Emmanuel Kayibanda. Dr. Nathan Ruhamya , cardiologist and Dr. Joseph Mucumbitsi, pediatric cardiologist.