I was incredibly fortunate to be able to join an amazing team visiting Rwanda in October last year. The Healing Hearts Northwest team from the USA is one of four teams that come to Rwanda annually to perform live changing & saving surgery every year. Hearts were opened, repaired and sewn back up… my heart was filled with admiration for a team so committed and talented truly changing lives.
Looking into surgery
The visiting team had brought a photographer/ videographer along to document the stories of some of the patients and she was more than happy for me to join her in following the team which I was truly grateful for the opportunity.
Here are just a few images of the amazing work that took places and the hands at work. For patient privacy I have not included any images post op of the women who were incredibly tough and up in moving with in 48 hours of surgery.
I learnt a lot about the process of surgery, the different ways surgeons operate and the loving after care that goes into the work. Over 8 days 16 surgeries were performed, sometimes the surgeons were in surgery for 8 hours attempting to first repair a value before having to replace it. They stood in one place for that entire time; no drink, no toilet breaks, in the same spot. I on the other hand sat, stood, walked in and out of the operating room, moved from the foot to the head of the bed, went out for a snack and drink – they stood, worked and problem solved. I was in awe of their work, the way their hands moved, hearts were moved to bypass and then powered back to life.
The initial incision is made though an electrical cut
Of the patients operated on 14 were women, a lot of them young women who had not yet had families. Why does this matter? In Rwanda (as in many countries) a huge amount of womens value is placed on being able to bare children and have a family. Once someone has their valve replaced then they have to stay on medicine for the remainder of their life, pregnancy can cause blood clotting issues and potential death, therefore it is incredibly risky for women to get pregnant following valve replacement.
The sternum has to be cut through
Incredible focus for hours
Teamwork at its best
Precision as the new valve goes into the heart
Many hands doing precise work on the valve