Monday, January 31, 2011

Hospital Day

It's time....

So much preparation and excitement and now mother nature might tamper with our plans. I'm going to remain hopeful that we all make it out without incident. I'm excited to be joining Team Heart on their 4th trip to Rwanda. Everyone has been so helpful and informative and have made me feel very welcome. It's a privilege to be working with Samantha and Gio as one of the perfusionists on this trip. I've tried to imagine every scenario possible but I'm sure I haven't come close, guess the best thing to do is to expect the unexpected. Really looking forward to doing my part to help those in need. Thanks for all the well wishes and support from family and friends. Chris

The travel agent is patiently checking every hour. All flights are still posted as departing on-time, so none of us can change....we are all praying and thinking good thoughts--hope the huge storm will miss us, but do not think that is going to happen. But there is nothing we can do except be flexible and know it will all work out.

So enjoy your last shifts before the break and if you work tomorrow, be safe on the drive in and out. Feel free to email me if you just need reassurance or update. And for those of you already in Rwanda--we will join you soon and boy will we be ready for warmer weather.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Snowstorm alert

Team Heart: The February Snow Goddess is still hovering. For many of you watching, there is a winter storm watch for Boston Tuesday later in day and Wednesday. We are watching it closely and have our travel agent on alert. Please check back for updates.

One by one....

I just met our bio-medical engineer, Donald M. at Team Heart Headquarters (Starbucks-Route 9) for a hand off of supplies and operational manual for "Maxine". Maxine is our 829 pound anesthesia machine shipped by freight. Kigali had an acute shortage just as Brigham and Women's anesthesia was rotating machines. This is a workhorse and had been used in OB until moved to the ICU for pick up--barely missing a beat. Why named Maxine, I do not know...but we are so happy to have her join us.

Donald, is new to Team Heart but I think will fit into the mix just great. He has been in email contact with Jono from Australia, Kumar leading the group and Jim from Spokane. They have been exchanging information by email since Donald joined us a few weeks ago. It is so amazing the welcome --even though he has not arrived--

On a good note, part of our our step down crew recently rerouted after cancelling their Egypt portion and vacation...the pyramids will have to wait for another visit. I know their parents are happier and Team Heart is certainly happier!
We (Dr Pat Come and Marilyn) have made it to Kigali !! Have
faith, there is land without snow and shovelling!!! We left
Boston pre dawn on Friday. Taxi came to my neighborhood but I
couldnt lift suitcases over the sidewalk mounds . Eventually made
our way on first leg of flight to DC and yes, it was snowing again
- small remnants of the previous stom that delayed all of the
flights by 1 day. Twelve assorted flight hrs to Ethiopia on
leg 2. Addis is olive green and filled with brown rolling hills.
We also had a bonus leg for our jourmey rerouted next to
Nairobi because we hadn't seen enough tarmac! Kind King Faisal
hospital people met us ouside Kigali customs after hour 26 of travel .
We are busy tonight at the guest house reviewing many case
clips and details from Dr. Joseph M. Also time for renewing
friendhips with our house hostess, Betty . We met Dr Michael
Koo fomm Yale, a 4th year who is going to help us a bit
during his time here.

Finally, we got to see our wonderful Jean Paul who came to deliver our phones and catch up. He looks great all dressed in a fine Italian navy suit fresh from his sister's wedding today.

So leave the snow and come join us in land of flowering trees and afternoon quick thundershowers
Go Team Heart 2011 !!!! Marilyn

Marilyn and Pat also contacted us on what is Sunday evening for them during their first dinner at Top Tower. Many of the same staff remember us and looking forward to our return. They begin tomorrow in early morning!!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

4 days to go...

Yikes just found from one of my fellow blogger that we are leaving at the crack of dawn on feb. 2nd (ground hog day). I guess I have to pack soon! So many things to do before I leave.
Hi Everyone,
Flat Stanley just arrived at my house and now I am fully prepped for my trip to Rwanda!! He is the final member of our 2011 team. (I hope he had all his vaccinations!)

He comes from Mrs Church's 5th grade class in Carlotta CA and he will be one Very VERY busy little man in Rwanda. He will be with us for the entire 3 weeks and then will return home to CA. Maybe we can convince him to take a side trip to Australia, not confirmed yet with my partner in crime :)

Stay tuned here kids for our work and to see Flat Stanley's adventures.

Muraho :)

5 Days Till Kickoff!

Received info on our new flight yesterday. We are now leaving a day earlier--Wednesday at the crack of dawn. Hopefully this will get us all out before the next predicted snow!
Today: packing and repacking. I'm trying to keep Ceeya's words of wisdom in mind: "pack your bags and then remove half of everything". Yikes!! Very excited and nerves are now kicking in as well. Can't wait to get going! Diane

Friday, January 28, 2011

The lull BEFORE the storm

We are busy on many fronts, Dr. Pat and Marilyn, our pre-screening team, currently, sitting in DC waiting to take off via Addis for Kigali. Pat received a list of some 40 names last evening from Joseph (our colleague liaison, one of the only 4 cardiologist in Rwanda) of the candidates she will begin to evaluate on her arrival. Pat, in consultation with the Team Heart cardiac surgeons, Prem and Chip, discussed the priority of evaluation and selecting those candidates to begin our theater schedule (that is OR to those of us in US). Both surgeons feel so totally comfortable with Pat making this decision--after all; this is how their practice works here. She is a terrific referral cardiologist, her work-ups are thorough and with sonographer Marilyn at her side, the studies will be as complete as we are used to having here. Taufiek, our surgical resident assigned to help with pre-op screening will arrive just in time to complete the surgical paper work required, double check all the labs, make sure blood bank is ready and begin to do the pre-op teaching preparation. Each person meeting the patients after selection contributes to patient education. Having the patient understand the procedure they are going to have done and how they can participate in their recovery is incredibly important. Suellen will address this aspect later, right Suellen?

As the final packing is playing out, many of you heard about the flight cancellations of 7 of our nurses and 2 physicians. Only a momentary panic--well... about 1 hour, and today our agent is in the final process today of reissuing their tickets. Everyone was cooperative and 4 different institutions helpful as every nurse and physician had to find someone to cover a shift so they could leave a day earlier.

We wait on several supplies to arrive here and surf the net to find Omni infusion pump disposables--our supplier no longer provides. How we fit every single item in is going to be a problem of logistics. It has to happen though--no choice, but it always does. I might have to ask for mercy at check in--our baggage might have to exceed more than 3/person for those traveling with Leslie and I.

Surgical instruments are packed. Yesterday, I watched the 3 theater nurses, Katie and Carmen BWH and Maddie, MGH, sitting on the floor checking and double checking; every clamp, needle holder and retractor was examined and cleared. Again, thank you to Brigham and Women's for the loan of the instruments. Katie even had a valve caliper on loan which had been special ordered after the surgeons became so fond of it in Rwanda year 1--another indication our practice there, improves the care here.

The remaining supplies to arrive to us today, to be tucked in, personal packing begins, (oh that!!) stopping paper , having the house sitter arrive, pick up malaria prevention medications, etc.

But it is the looking over the list of potential patients which will help me focus the need for this "program development" to become clear. There is a young man with aortic regurgitation-wide open, AI , which Dr. Harthorne (MGH) saw year 2. Not as common as a result of rheumatic heart disease, only 14 years old, the size of a child younger, he walked 6 hours to have Jen, MGH sonography (TH-2009-present), do an echo year 3. His family is very frightened, hesitant for him to have surgery. He will die without it. Maybe not this year, but his heart will only get worse and maybe too bad to actually do in country. He is handsome and bright and the future of his country will only benefit from seeing him healthy, back in school and able to take care of himself returning to be a productive member of his family and community society. Will he make the list and if so, will his parents feel comfortable enough to allow him to undergo the surgery?

A young mother of 22....a young man 17, a father 26.....a young girl 7 to evaluate for referral to a Pediatric group....the list of 40 becomes the reason we do this.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Are we there yet ??? :)

I don't know about you all, but I am soooo ready for Rwandese weather after watching my dear husband shovel another 12 or so inches this am from our house.

I can not wait for the sunny warm air, even the warm rains will feel good to us all at this point. To be able to wear a tee shirt and be comfortable will be incredible as we do our wonderful work.

We will all be quite pale from the bundles of clothes we have on currently. It will be funnty to hear all the children yelling at us in their cute little voices "Muzungos Muzungos" - LOL


Today, if weather permits, we plan to pack surgical instruments on loan from Brigham and Women's Hospital, probably 150 pounds to go in second bags to travel with the surgical team--Many thanks for this generous loan and the support of the operating room (aka theater in Rwanda) leadership. Once again, Carol R. has been wonderful behind the scenes in preparation. We could not do it without the support of this institution that seems both pleased and and slightly bewildered at times by the sheer magnitude of support required by this project.

Another key person at the Brigham has been Steve S. . Very quiet, very competent, he knows OR and ICU inventory inside and out. If we need something the Brigham does not supply, he has the contact to get what is needed. He has been involved for 4 years and from the very first year, he was always there when we need him the most. You know we cannot do this with out surgeons...but, we also can not do this with out people like Steve and one ever sees them--but boy, do we know they are there!

A snowstorm moving into the northeast has just slowed us down with what looks like 10-12 inches. Hard to believe we will soon be in Rwanda, unpacking, watching Marilyn and Pat work their magic screening patients , getting new people oriented. But before we get to this point, there is much to do stateside.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

One week!

Wow it doesn't seem like it's time to go back to Rwanda for my second trip, but I leave one week from today. This time next week I will be on my way to Brussels and then on to Rwanda. I'm excited for all the great and life changing things we have in store for us and our patients. And also excited for the warmer weather! While it isn't as cold in Durham, NC as it is in Boston, it is still a lot colder than Rwanda!
Please keep us all in your thoughts and prayers! Your support means everything to us and we couldn't do it without y'all!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Eight Days Left

The Lists have started.
This is my second trip to Rwanda and it already feels like I am visiting friends.
I pray that we don't have any SAD outcomes this year and that our young patients get a new lease on life.
Thanks for all the support from my family and friends without you this would not be possible!

On your Mark - Get Set - Let's Go !!!!!!

Woo Hoo - finally

The last few days of prep for the ICU as we drop off final suitcases, pack the medications, and get last few refrigerated items prepped to travel. It is always a flurry of activity in the last few weeks but I expect, and pray that all will go well.

Plus a PRIMUS or 2 will help me relax once we arrive and see the supplies - LOL.

I can not wait to see the smiles and share tears and create stories with the 'newbies' as we call our first-timers. And to see the warm familiar faces of our return volunteers and our Rwandese friends. This will be my 6th trip to Rwanda and I feel so lucky to be part of their culture and world.

Let's go make miracles happen together !!! Go Team Heart 2011 !!!

Muraho :)
Leslie 'aka' Sabby

In the last few day's before leaving

I'm getting anxious about the trip since it is my first time but looking foward to it. Worried that I am packing the right stuff . I am following Ceeya packing list deligently, which is a wonderful tool to have.
I have sent out an e- mail to the people I work with asking for clothes donation and money for matresses for the orphanage, so people are responding and I am hopping we can the kids plenty of clothes and the matresses they need.
Time is flying buy as we enter the last stretch before leaving to Rwanda.

Hello to all of you sharing this journey to Rwanda for our fourth trip to provide cardiac surgical procedures for adolescent and young adults suffering from rheumatic heart disease. We have all been incredibly busy on both state side and with our counterparts in Rwanda. I hope each team member will share their role, their preparation for this trip and their experience in many posts through out the next few weeks, so you can get to know each person.

Our cardiology team prepares to depart Thursday--if east coast snowstorm allows. Forms for patient assessment, echo studies and documents are flying back and forth. There is so much to gather for final bags to carry with us--and this is after shipping 6 pallets over 1200 kg of supplies for the operating theater, ICU and step-down.

I will be returning for my 9th trip to Rwanda. Although an ICU nurse by background, I am the program coordinator. I watched the shipment drive off with final paperwork, (Thank you to shipping partner FedEx) but the entire team sweats the arrival and receiving with customs. Every item is critical to the success and many of our vendors have donated the supplies needed. At this point we have shipped over $100,000 worth of supplies, with more than $225,000 of supplies traveling with us in loaned equipment from Brigham and Women's Hospital and other area hospitals.

I feel our colleagues at King Faisal Hospital have become friends and I have enormous respect for their contribution and organization-- and I look forward to you coming to know each of them on this site, as we hope they too will post their experiences and preparations.

What we do, and the impact, as we save one life at a time, hit home this morning as I received an email from the husband of one patient we saw in November of 2009. Critically ill, she could not lie down for her echo-she would have suffocated. Mother of two, a college graduate, she would die if she had to wait for our team to arrive in April of 2010. We referred her on to HHNW in February for a valve replacement. She had a prolonged recuperation due to her level of illness, but has just returned to work at the University.

Another patient many of you know from following our team, begins his second semester at an engineering program in India. And Erneste, had better be studying mathematics since he has national exams coming up, but is doing very well. Young Miss Claudine will soon travel to the US with PIH as an ambassador to show conference attendees the impact cardiac surgery can have in a resource poor setting -- saving one life at a time. None of these patients would have survived, had surgery not been an option. And the same is true for those waiting on us to arrive with our equipment and supplies.

We are incredibly honored and humbled by the trust placed in our team by the people of Rwanda. But our team is an amazing group of the most talented individuals selected for both their expertise and their commitment to give back and-- to do it as a team. It is not about one person-

I hope you enjoy following our trip. And thank you for your support.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Welcome to the Team Heart 2011 Friends and Family blog.  This will be an informal blog that all Team Heart members will be able to post to and allow friends and families to comment and communicate with the Team.  We encourage you to share this blog with everyone.  Thanks!