Sunday, April 6, 2008

From Chip Bolman, MD, Chief of Cardiac Surgery

We are off and running.

We did our first surgery Saturday, a 25 year-old with an ASD, a congenital defect in the septum between the upper chambers of the heart. He did very well- extubated very early, came out of the ICU on day 1, and was surrounded by his family.

Today, we performed two more surgeries: an aortic valve replacement for post-endocarditis aortic insufficiency, and a mitral commissurotomy for rheumatic mitral stenosis in an adolescent. Both went very well.

The Team has been unbelievable- no surprise- and have all been working extremely hard. Everything here is just harder, at least the first time around, and the amount of energy required to set up and perform these operations, and to care for the patients afterward, is surprising.

During our first operation, we had technical difficulties with the heater-cooler. Fortunately, that patient did fine. Ceeya and John Stephens, the former hospital Executive Director, aided by Mike Gilfeather at home and by Jono, the Australian Biomed. Engineer par excellance, have spent all day trying to locate another heater-cooler. Amazingly, they have succeeded, and one will hopefully be arriving from Mombassa, Kenya, tomorrow, Monday, April 7.

This has so far been a fairly overwhelming experience for all of us. Several have visited the Genocide Memorial and an orphanage. These are profoundly moving experiences. This week is the 14th anniversary of the 1994 genocide, and will be marked by services and periods of reflection. The atmosphere is very subdued and somber.

The fact that we are here trying our best to put lives back together stands in stark contrast to what has gone before, and the people here are quite moved by it. We are just trying to put one foot in front of the other and get through the days and cases the best way we can. It is truly a privilege to be able to be here and to try, in some small measure, to leave things maybe slightly better than we found them. More important, we hope to establish a firm and positive foundation upon which to build in the future.