ICHF strives to go to poor countries to operate on children suffering from the world’s #1 birth defect – Congenital Heart Defects. But, ICHF is also committed to helping each country build its own self-sustaining pediatric cardiac care/surgery program over time. The words below are from medical volunteer, Barry Markovitz, MD.
As a pediatric intensivist, I wanted to do volunteer medical work for a long time, but never came across an opportunity to practice my skills, the only thing I know – pediatric critical care – until I learned about ICHF. My true passion is pediatric cardiac critical care, and when I found ICHF, I jumped. Big time. This organization has accomplished so much, in so many disparate places, it boggles the mind.
Barry Markovitz, MD with patient in Dominican Republic
I have now been on five trips in four years. Without a doubt, my most rewarding trips – now just recently back from my third – has been to the Dominican Republic. Three years ago I went – my first trip – not knowing what to expect. We arrived to a somewhat ramshackle “ICU” – really a tiny recovery room, steps away from the cardiac OR. We tried our best to organize the meager supplies, from IV’s to respiratory equipment to medications. We worked with an incredibly dedicated team of local surgeon, intensivist, nurses, and OR personnel. It seemed at the time, that we (the ICHF volunteers), had to do everything. The local physicians and nurses there seemed inexperienced, requiring guidance on the most basic tasks of ICU care. Fast forward to November, 2010. I arrive with another spirited team of physicians and nurses from many nations, and what we find is a complete phase change from two years previous. The Santiago physicians (now two intensivists!) and nurses are on the ball and without exception, were ready, willing and able to care for the postoperative patients. They are now able to manage the routine and complex patients, administering medications, documenting, making plans, carrying them out – with far less supervision than just two years before. For me, it was a transforming experience. It is like seeing your child walk, when you are only used to that child crawling. It is hearing their first complete sentences, rather than just uttered words.
ICHF provides a truly unique gift – the teams operate on and care for children directly, but in the process, they train the local professionals over time to provide this care on their own. My own observations of the progress of the Santiago group confirm that this process works, and can work miracles.
Barry Markovitz MD MPH
Director, Critical Care Medicine
Department of Anesthesiology Critical Care Medicine
Childrens Hospital Los Angeles