From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.” ~ Arthur Ashe
At Congenital Heart, we have chosen to extend our professional lives beyond the boundaries of Maine, or even the United States. With a worldwide incidence of ~1%, most infants born with congenital heart disease will never receive a diagnosis, let alone the care that they need. As providers of that care, we believe that giving back to the underserved is our obligation and can often, “. . . make a life” for both a child and ourselves. Outreach efforts in India and China have allowed us to not only treat the underserved, but more importantly, teach local care-providers how to diagnose and treat their own population – a lasting gift.
Similarly, children in Maine who have received optimal care are sometimes left with disabilities and struggle to experience the active lives enjoyed by their peers. Knowing that a child’s health extends beyond the capabilities of their body is essential to providing comprehensive care for the patient. Our involvement with Camp Meridian and the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Maine help meet those important non-medical needs of our patients close to home.
In both 2011 and 2012, Congenital Heart traveled to Bangelore, India to volunteer at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, a Hindu hospital providing free care to children and adults throughout India. Prior to our journey, free devices and equipment were solicited from American companies and shipped to Bangelore. In anticipation of our arrival, families travelled from all over India – sometimes a month’s journey and often at great expense. Patients were screened prior to our arrival and then again by us to make certain that they were candidates for interventional, transcatheter therapy. In 2011, working with Indian doctors who had travelled to learn the interventional techniques, we performed 92 procedures in 86 patients in 6 days, sometimes working well into the night to finish the day’s schedule. Several cardiologists were taught the techniques and consulting services were provided with regards to establishing and maintaining an interventional catheterization program. The following year we embarked on even more challenging cases and were able to perform 74 procedures during our week there. More cardiologists were trained and have since gone out to perform some of these procedures in other centers throughout India.
In 2008 and 2011, cardiologists from Congenital Heart travelled to Shanghai, China as part of a cardiovascular team from Maine Medical Center. The 2008 trip was chronicled in an award-winning documentary, “The China Journey” by a team from WGME that travelled with us. During this trip, Chinese children received both surgical and interventional therapies, and these techniques were again taught to the local care providers. As one of the largest and most sophisticated medical communities in China, the Shanghai group is now in the position to be the teachers for other programs throughout the country.
Closer to Home
International cases done at Maine Medical Center:
The Congenital Heart Team at Maine Medical Center, including providers from Congenital Heart, Cardiothoracic Surgery, Cardiac Anesthesia, and Critical Care Medicine, provides free care for approximately 5 to 10 children annually with congenital heart disease from parts of the world where similar care is either prohibitively expensive or non-existent. Comprehensive care including noninvasive pre-operative assessment, cardiac catheterization, open heart surgery, and both inpatient and outpatient post-operative follow-up have been provided free of charge to children from the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Latin America over the past 20 years.
Camp Meridian is a free weekend camp for children with chronic cardiac conditions. Located on the site of Camp Merrowvista in the beautiful Ossipee Mountains of New Hampshire, Camp Meridian welcomes approximately 50 children annually ranging in age from 8 to 17 years for a weekend of personal growth, fun, song, and making new friends. Dr. Michael Epstein of Congenital Heart is a co-director of the Camp. Volunteer staff includes many of Maine Medical Center’s critical care nurses as well as some of Congenital Heart’s adult aged patients with congenital heart disease. Please ask for information about Camp Meridian during your child’s evaluation or visit its website at www.campmeridian.org.
Many Congenital Heart patients have had their wish granted by the MAW foundation of Maine. From “swimming with dolphins in the Bahamas” to being treated like royalty at Disney World, children with life-threatening heart disease have had their dreams realized, and for a brief period, could leave their medical struggles behind. In 2008, Congenital Heart donated $5,000 to the foundation which granted a Wish for a young man from Harrington, Maine. Dr. Jon Donnelly of Congenital Heart has served both on the Board of Directors and as a medical consultant. In “Tomorrow’s Wish” a documentary celebrating the foundation’s 20th anniversary, the power of a wish is best illustrated.