Posted on 6 September, 2016

The Open Heart International team of one surgeon, three doctors, one perfusionist and six nurses assembled in Cochabambaon Sunday September 4th.


Their arrival coincided with a lively city-wide festival for the environment. Cars were excluded from the city so the locals walked, biked and simply enjoyed the beautiful spring weather. Jacarandas and Bougainvillea’s added to the colourful festival flags, umbrellas and outfits. Dogs outnumbered people. The snow topped mountains and Jesus statue towered over all.

In the evening the team, many bleary eyed from 30-plus hours of international travel, jet lag and a touch of altitude sickness, travelled to Hospital Univalle for their first introduction to the local staff and the hospital. Led by Dr Ian Nicholson and head nurse Helen Dodshon, the OHI team worked with local medical staff and Rotary liaison Daisy Montano to prepare the patients they will be operating on over the next week.


The meeting ran quite late, so it was a tired group who assembled for dinner at ‘Paprika’ a tastefully decorated local restaurant within walking distance of the Hotel Diplomat, in downtown Cochabamba. The mood lifted when plates of aromatic local cuisine appeared.


Today started early for the surgical team. Local media assembled for a press conference where Dr. Nicholson spoke passionately about the ongong work of Open Heart International.


Around 8.30am preparations began in earnest for the open-heart surgery on Wilson, a 27-year-old man with severe Mitral Valve Regurgitation. Surgery began just before 1pm.

Dr. Nicholson was supported by surgical nurse Julie Hulston, anaesthetist Dr. Brad Smith, cardiologist Dr. Dominic Mou, perfusionist Rona Steel and anaesthetic nurse Alannah Morris. Local surgeons assisted and many medical staff observed the procedure either in theatre or via live video link to the Hospital’s conference room.


Despite some initial equipment challenges the surgery was a success and a young man’s future restored. At 4.30pm the patient was being wheeled to Intensive Care where OHI team members Dr Glenn Singleman and ICU nurses – Helen, Caroline, Marilena and Brigette managed his post operative care with local intensivist Juan and Univalle ICU NUM.


First days in a new environment, with a different culture and language are always challenging, but many of the biggest hurdles have been overcome and the team is looking forward to the days ahead.

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