Posted on 19 November, 2019

Saturday 23rd & Sunday 24th November 2019

And just like that, it is a wrap for our Tanzanian cardiac trip for November!

With life-changing open heart surgery provided to 11 adult and 8 paediatric patients, it has been an incredibly rewarding week for the entire team.
In the paediatric ward, our little friends are progressing well! With their personalities beginning to shine back through, it’s great to see smiles appearing on their faces again.

Over in the adult ward, our patients are also recovering well, happy to be up and about and almost on their way home.

Patients, Paul* (left) and Roy* (right) are both excited to return to normal life at home with their families and back to work. Paul* works full time as a driver and Roy* has been a Reverend Father at his Anglican church for the last 20 years.

For me, the most rewarding part of being on this trip has been witnessing the progress of the patients. As I have been walking between rooms, I have had the privilege of forming relationships with our patients and getting to know not only their stories, but their journey through the hospital. Seeing them progress from pre-op to post-op has been truly beautiful.
It has also been incredible to watch the team work their magic across all aspects of the hospital. From the operating theatre, to the ICU and the wards, the entire Open Heart International team of medical volunteers have joined forces from all walks of life for one cause: to change lives.

As Professor David Anderson profoundly stated at our team dinner on Saturday night, “it’s our duty in the world to come into it and then leave having left it in a better way.” And I think collectively, we’re doing just that.

Friday 22nd November 2019

I already knew that education was a huge component of any Open Heart International (OHI) trip. However, it wasn’t until I was witnessing firsthand the dedication of our medical volunteers every day this week in Tanzania to empowering the local staff with skills and knowledge.

With teams of qualified medical volunteers travelling far and wide to provide life-changing open heart surgery to those who need it most, you may be wondering why education is such a big component of our trips.

Simply put, the significance of education is to build self-sufficiency within the countries we visit, such as Tanzania, rather than providing temporary, band aid solutions.Different styles of education is provided by our team across all parts of the hospital, from our medical team and nurses, to our physiotherapist and biomedical engineer (such as one on on training, education sessions, lectures etc).

This week, our OHI medical team including surgeons, doctors, perfusionists, anesthetists and intensivists supervised the local team’s surgical techniques and procedures. They advised on topics such as infection control and strategies, principles of ventilation and perfusion and prevention of post-operation complications.Meanwhile, our nurses in the intensive care unit (ICU) and adult and paediatric wards discussed a variety of topics with local staff.

These included how to detect a deteriorating patient, time management, wound care, cardiac surgical procedures, basic life support, physiology, anatomy, safe administration of medication, management of patients with heart failure and much more!

Our OHI physiotherapist (physio), Jasmyne, worked with the local physio, John, this week. Together, they explored the prioritis ation of patients, respiratory techniques in paediatric patients, rehabilitation of complex and stroke patients, discharge education and the importance of patient education to improve treatment compliance.

This week our OHI biomedical (biomed) engineer, Lachlan, assisted the local biomed manager, Abella, with corrective maintenance on technology required to support clinical workflow. This included addressing a few troubles with facility fittings, exploring staff expectations and improving understanding with the management of equipment that is currently out of service.

While saving lives is an incredibly huge part about what we do here at OHI, the reason why we exist is so that we can “save one, save many.”

We do this through actively empowering the local team in Tanzania to work toward self-sufficiency. Knowing that operations continue to be performed and that patient care and outcomes have improved long after we leave completely fills our hearts!

Thursday 21st November 2019

Yesterday was a very exciting day here in Tanzania, with the very first transposition of the great arteries (TGA) arterial switch being performed.

The complex surgery was completed by local paediatric surgeon, Dr. Godwin, with guidance of Professor David and Dr. Elyan.

After undergoing his second surgery, the two-month-old patient is currently in the ICU, with our Open Heart International (OHI) cardiologist, Dr. Dan, performing a post-op echocardiogram scan to assess the surgical results.

Over in the adult ward, our two female patients, Dorothy* and Mary*, are beginning to regain their energy post-operation. After more daily exercising and some rest, these two women are building their strength and improving quickly, with smiles to prove it!

Meanwhile, in our paediatric ward, our three patients are recovering well. Our newest addition to the ward, Katie*, who has been resting peacefully today. With this starfish sleeping position, I am pretty convinced that she’s got the whole ‘comfort’ thing down pat.

As I was walking between the operating theatre and the ICU, something that I had been frequently noticing was some sort of team meeting before each operation.

However, today I was informed that this ‘team meeting’ was in fact the local Tanzanian staff gathering with the OHI medical team to not only discuss the procedures, but also pray over each procedure and the respective patients before beginning.

I ventured into the operating theatres again today to get some pictures of our incredible team working with the local staff. Although these hidden heroes are tucked away in the theatres, the work they are doing is mending hearts and as a result, saving lives.

Two more days of surgery to go!

Wednesday 20th November 2019

Today, both our paediatric and adult wards are beginning to fill with new additions of patients being moved from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Overall, they are progressing well, with little Zoe* enjoying a lollipop, balloons and stickers before moving to the paediatric ward.

We also had two of our adult patients, Roy* and Paul* move to the ward where they are eager to get out of bed – walking up and down the corridor to exercise (refer to photo below).

For many patients, they aren’t able to walk this independently this early after surgery. However, these two men are making a great recovery post-op, only being in the ward for one day.

Roy has managed to coin the title of ‘happiest patient’. From pre-surgery to the ICU and now, to day one in the ward, you could not wipe the smile off this man’s face even if you tried. It’s incredibly contagious and after speaking with him, you can’t help but walk away with his positivity rubbing off on you.

Education plays a significant role in any of our trips, with our OHI teams and local medical staff continuously learning from one another as to how to improve patient care and outcomes.

Today, our OHI Intensivist, Dr. Matt Crawford gathered the local team and taught them the basics of mechanical ventilation.

Meanwhile, ward nurses Leanne and Irene were in the paediatric ward teaching the local nurses about patient assessment. Using the mannequin, the pair gave the local team a scenario of a deteriorating child and explained what to do in that situation.

Also, down in the paediatric ward, our first patient from day one of surgery is recovering well, with his infectious smile and wide range of facial expressions on full display!

So far, the week has been full of life-changing surgeries, teamwork and plenty of education, and there is plenty more to come!

Tuesday 19th November 2019

We started off the day with morning rounds of the ICU patients. So far, all of our four patients from Day 1 of surgery are progressing well.

In fact, little George* has now moved to the paediatric ward where nurses Leanne and Irene are looking after him. His cheeky smile is coming back to say hello. Both Mum and bub are happy and that’s exactly what we like to see!

Our incredible team in the operating theatre performed four more life-changing surgeries today for another two adults and children.

For the first time ever, I walked into the theatre to witness what is truly an eye-opening experience. Seeing such a delicate, yet powerful part of the human body so vividly made this entire Open Heart International (OHI) trip all feel very real.

These amazing surgeons are working on their feet for hours performing such intricate surgery and I am in complete awe of the entire team within the operating rooms.

From the surgeons and scrub nurses to the doctors and local staff, everyone works together so seamlessly to quite literally change the lives of their patients.
Meanwhile, our OHI physiotherapist, Jasmyne, is working with local physiotherapist John, in implementing principles of early mobilisation post-surgery.

One day aftermitrial valve replacement (MVR) surgery, 25-year-old Dorothy*, is keen to get out of bed and exercise by doing some laps of the hospital corridor. It’s great to see our patients progressing so well!

Two days down of surgery so far with eight patients having their lives changed forever…and the week’s only just started!!

Monday 18th November 2019

After a few long flights, the team finally all made it to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania for our last project of 2019. Having never visited Tanzania, let alone Africa before – it’s been amazing seeing the beautiful smiles of the locals firsthand.

On Sunday, the Open Heart International (OHI) team met with the local team at the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute (JKCI) to discuss the different patients requiring surgery. This week, the team are planning to operate on 10 adults and 10 children who will be undergoing life-changing surgery.

Our very first patient, George*, won the hearts of many today. The little one-year-old boy was suffering from an atrial septal defect (ASD) and has had the hole in his heart repaired.

He is currently resting in the ICU and his parents are both very grateful for the OHI team who have mended their little one.

In addition to George, the team also operated on two adults and one other child. As they recover in ICU, we will be sharing more of their stories with you in the coming days.

As I walk between the theatre, ICU and wards, I am finding it quite overwhelming (in the best way possible!)

For starters, the overwhelming sense of selflessness and care from all of the medical volunteers here on the team is something else. Not to mention the overwhelming sense of kindness and thankfulness of the local doctors and nurses, as well as the patient’s and their families.

The first day of surgery has seen four patients have their lives completely changed and we are looking forward to saving many more in the days to come!

*Open Heart International chooses to change the name of child patients who have been treated, for child protection & privacy purposes.

Tags:  Cardiac, East Africa,