ICHF Associate Medical Director, Dr. Christian Gilbert, was preparing to fly to Basra, Iraq to begin a new program of Babyheart medical missions there when he had to take a detour. There was an emergency waiting in Kharkiv, Ukraine and Christian answered the call. A one-week-old child named Michael had a transposition of the great arteries and a VSD. He underwent an emergency balloon septostomy and needed an arterial switch procedure. Below is Dr. Gilbert’s account of the trip and the remarkable progress of Dr. Olga Buchneva. This account exemplifies what a Babyheart Mission is all about: a healed heart, a surgeon taught.
I performed this with Dr. Olga Buchneva, a local surgeon trained by the ICHF staff. She has done one before with my help and did not feel comfortable doing it on her own. So a call went out to ICHF for a surgeon to come and help Olga and it turned out I was going in that direction to Iraq. So arrangements were made for me to fly to Kharkiv a few days early. After some early trouble and flight delays I arrived at 2am, Friday morning. The team was doing an adult emergency which finished as I was arriving. We all got some good rest and started the switch procedure around 10:30 the following morning and finished at 2:30pm. The operation went very smoothly as if Olga had done hundreds! I was so proud of her. The baby is in excellent condition in the ICU and the team is gathering for some food and refreshments as I write this. After the baby we did a 6 year old girl with a very rare coronary artery aneurysm and fistula who had had several attempts to close in the cath lab without success. In surgery the fistula was closed off bypass and she is recovering nicely. All in all it has been a very productive trip. I will send more on the remarkable progress I have observed in Kharkiv.
To give some perspective. I first came to Kharkiv in 2009 and at that time the only cases being done on kids were when ICHF teams were here. And the cases were simple ASDs and VSDs. Today I saw the schedule for next week, no ICHF team, and there were 10 cases on the list, most if not all were kids. That is huge. The volume of complex adult cases being done is increasing by leaps and bounds, most of them by Olga, which will only help her be a better congenital heart surgeon. The ICU was caring for 7 patients and was doing so without any help, really cool.
Today’s case, done entirely by Olga, was amazing. The baby was in the ICU 5 hours after starting, chest closed, no bleeding, looking fine. Really impressive. This is truly an ICHF success story if there was ever was one. And I am so thankful to be a very small part of it.
– Dr. Christian Gilbert, Associate Medical Director, ICHF
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