I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got in the car and drove five hours north to the Kurdish city of Dohuk.
I was told we would be screening children for congenital heart disease (CHD), but since I’m not in the field of medicine and am a newcomer to PLC, I wasn’t exactly sure what that would look like. All I knew was that this was going to be a first-time experience for me and that I was excited.
I walked into the experience with an open mind and an open heart, and I walked away with a new understanding of what it means to screen babies for CHD and why that has everything to do with understanding and fighting the backlog of children waiting in line for lifesaving heart surgery here in Iraq.
In the end, we spent the week screening newborns using two echo machines. Dr. Kirk (whom we’ve partnered with before) preformed an echo using a V-scan, a pocket-sized ultrasound device while Dr. Serdar—the local Kurdish cardiologist who we partnered with for the mission—used a full-size echo machine.
Each morning we walked into the hospital and screened the children who were born that day as well as the children who were born the previous night. More often than not, grandmothers would carry in children who were barely minutes old. Their vibrancy and freshness to life continually brightened the room.
Along with the spirited children, we saw timid mothers, brand new fathers, and bashful siblings—all of which were hoping to hear good news about their brand new family member. It was such a joy to be able to see the relief and joy on many of the families’ faces as they heard the words “healthy heart!”
In addition to performing two screenings per a child, we conducted interviews with parents and close relatives of the babies. The interviews make up a collection of data on the parents of the child, which will later be analyzed by Dr. Kirk as he searches to better understand the conditions that lead to CHD.
By the close of the week, Dr. Kirk and Dr. Serdar felt well on their way to being able to make a more solid assessment of the CHD situation in the Dohuk region of Iraqi Kurdistan – and a more solid assessment is exactly what we need if we’re going to eradicate the backlog.
I feel truly blessed to have been a part of this screening mission. Not only did I learn a ton, but I forged new friendships and had an amazing time.
Nearly two years ago, we began our first Remedy Mission with the International Children’s Heart Foundation and Living Light International. For us it was a great risk to take. We had only sent children out of the country and, all-in-all, that model was proven. It was safe.
But thanks to your support, we were able to begin training doctors and treating children inside Iraq. And we were able to serve a little girl named Iman (along with 23 other children). Now, just under two years later, here she is:
Iman is from Dohuk where our partner doctor, Dr. Kirk Milhoan, and his team screened newborns for heart defects. Now Iman is happy and healthy, able to enjoy playing games with her friends, learning in school, and spending time with her family.
Safe at last from her childhood disease, Iman’s life is full of potential. Thank you for giving these children a future!
In preparing for my 2nd internship with PLC this summer I came across an article written by two well-known global health advocates and physicians (a prof at Harvard and the current president of Dartmouth, if you’re into credentials) on the topic of surgery in the global health movement. [Paul E. Farmer and Jim Y. Kim. 2008. "Surgery and Global Health: a View from Beyond the OR." World Journal of Surgery 32:533-536].
After discussing this article with one of the directors at PLC and thinking about our current model for surgical aid in Iraq, a few points stood out:
The authors’ first argument is that surgery is the “neglected stepchild of global healthcare.” The fact is, although surgical diseases (CHD being one of the most prevalent) are a major cause of death and disability in much of the world, the vast majority of healthcare programs don’t address surgical needs.
Why? Because surgical interventions are usually complicated and require a larger investment than other kinds of health interventions, and treating surgical diseases requires a more advanced infrastructure and the involvement of more professionals than treating, for instance, malnutrition or malaria.
There is also the fact that surgical diseases have lacked the same kind of advocacy and exposure that have led to funding and programs for “high-profile” diseases like tuberculosis or AIDS.
The other major issue addressed by Farmer and Kim is that countries that actually have the surgical services often only have them in just a few locales, and the treatment is usually too expensive to be accessible by most of the population.
The question then arises: how do we make this treatment available in settings where infrastructure is poor, trained professionals are scarce, equipment is needed, and “the only thing not needed is disease, which exists abundantly.”
Remedy Missions are our answer to that question.
As you know, we recently moved from sending children abroad for surgery to a model that provides more surgeries at less cost while simultaneously training local professionals.
These Remedy Missions specifically address the impediments to surgery in global health described by Farmer and Kim.
They provide treatment of CHD for families that would never be able to afford traveling abroad for surgery. Our work also means we’re freeing surgeons up to focus on surgery, because, as Farmer and Kim write, “clearly we don’t want surgeons to be dragged out of the operating room to manage logistics, supply chains…and financing.”
This process of providing surgery and training is also an exercise in infrastructure building as we work toward the development of heart centers in northern and southern Iraq. The fact that we can count both regional and national governments as partners addresses the need for surgical care in the public sector in Iraq, and it bodes especially well for poor families who will need to receive treatment in the future.
Lastly, the partnership and advocacy of our supporters (that’s YOU) is helping to raise awareness of the burden of CHD and other surgical diseases in places like Iraq.
With well-planned, structured interventions that take into account the needs and problems associated with surgical disease globally, and the support and advocacy of a Coalition of concerned individuals and communities (that’d be you again), problems like CHD can cease to be a “neglected stepchild” of global health and instead serve as a model for building health systems and effecting powerful change in global contexts.
See One. Do One. Teach One. Remedy Mission Trains Iraqi Heart Doctors and Nurses for the Future of the Children and their Country
February 23, 2011 by Jeremy · Comments Off
Push play above for a peek into what it means for our volunteers to be here training local Iraqi heart doctors and nurses.
After you’ve viewed it, please “SHARE” below with Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Digg, etc.
If you’re on Twitter this week be sure to use the #RemedyMission hashtag to describe all the good news coming out of Iraq this week via @preemptivelove.
June 12, 2010 by Lydia · Comments Off
The summer interns visited a children’s hospital in the area to talk with Dr. Aso, who will be part of the Remedy mission this summer. Dr. Aso is a hugely important pediatric cardiologist for all the children of Iraq!
Last week we were honored to have some of the excellent medical staff from the Anadolu Medical Center in Istanbul, Turkey make the trip to our office in Iraq to work with us on a few current and future initiatives. Among our agenda for the week:
The video above represents one of our agenda items for the week! In coming days we hope to post a photo narrative about the amazing alumni banquet and a story from local media about the Turkish delegation and PLC’s peacemaking agenda with them.
Don’t forget to push PLAY above to watch hope and life in motion!