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Feb 5, 2014

The Gift of Life; Rotary’s program for children chronic heart problems

The Rotary Club of Belize’s annual Gift of Life Program is underway at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital. Since Monday, the visiting doctors have been attending to a growing number of children requiring medical attention for heart conditions. The program is also extended to adults and where necessary, the patients are sent overseas for further treatment. Duane Moody has a report.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

It has established the only pediatric cardiac services in the country and since Monday, the Rotary Club’s Gift of Life Program, at its annual clinic, has been diagnosing, monitoring and carrying out checkups on Belizeans, mainly children, with chronic heart conditions.

 

Yvette Burks, Rotary Gift of Life Program

Yvette Burks

“We found that the children from the south have a hard time getting to the clinics up here; it is an all day affair. Even coming to Dangriga is difficult for them. So we always try to make it down to Dangriga, tomorrow is the last day of clinics. We’ve done two days here already: yesterday we had a very busy clinic that ended about eight o’clock in the night; lots of very sick children unfortunately. One little emergency case that has already been accepted to Guatemala which has some capabilities and we are hoping to get the paperwork together to get this one month old baby out tomorrow morning; other children that will be going to various centers for surgeries. And today, it is only Belize City and Belize District children, so we are a little bit more efficient, a little bit less crowded.”

 

Dr. Jeffrey Delaney, Pediatric Cardiologist

“We see anyone from newborns to adulthood that may have a congenital heart problem or problem that they were born with or in childhood, a problem that could have been acquired such as rheumatic fever or rheumatic heart disease. We see babies that are born that have abnormal heart muscle functions, abnormal heart connections, holes in the heart; any number of problems that could interfere with their growth, their development, their color, their exercise capacity.”

 

Jeffrey Delaney

Interventional cardiologist, Doctor Jeffrey Delaney, and his team of medical practitioners have been coming to the jewel to conduct medical assessments on the patients. After proper diagnosis, a recommendation is then made as to whether they will need out-of-country medical assistance. We asked him about the indicators for a heart disease.

 

Dr. Jeffrey Delaney

“With infants, it is often that they are just not thriving. They can’t eat normally; they don’t gain weight even when they do eat and while they are eating they seem to be working very hard—they breathe too fast, they are very sweaty and they just can’t seem to use those calories to gain weight and to appear healthy. Their color may diminish—either too pale or a little blue. And if those things are present, the parents should see their doctor, make arrangements to come see us because that quite often is the sign of a heart problem that may be serious.”

 

Meet eighteen year old Iris Luna, a fourth form student of Mopan Technical High School in Cayo. Back in 2002, at the age of six, she was sent overseas for an open heart surgery; she was back at the clinic today for her annual checkup.

 

Iris Luna

Iris Luna, Patient, Gift of Life Program

“I never thought I was sick and afterwards I noticed it and god gave me a wish to go and get an open heart surgery and now they told me I need a next one but I will see what happens today; depending on the doctor and what god would say. Some days I get problems, but I take pills and it takes it off…but not all the time, sometime it happens.”

 

Duane Moody

“So you are saying that you have another surgery that you’ll have to do?”

 

Iris Luna

“They told me that last year that I need one, but it depends because I still di grow and they tell me that I maybe will need one.”

 

The program started back in 1977 and since then thousands of persons with cardiac problems have been provided the necessary medical treatment or surgery. Burke says the success of the program has been tremendous and for the first time, eighteen children are scheduled to take surgeries in the first half of Rotary’s calendar year.

 

Yvette Burke

“It is incredible because we face so much limitations with the services in Belize, but the nice thing is that every single year we are improving what is available, what can be done. As you know in August 2012, Doctor Paul Chike came in and did some simply surgeries as well with Doctor Coye and we hope to repeat that again in the near future. We are so excited. We have placed eighteen children from July the first which is the beginning of our rotary year. Now we have done eighteen children before, but that is the entire year—not in six or seven months. So it is really quite phenomenal that we have been able to help and I’m speaking only of the surgical cases because remember each child that is being seen here is being controlled, managed, medications, adjusted.”

 

Gift of Life International is developing a regional medical facility in Salvador. Two children from Orange Walk have since been sent for medical procedures on January fifteen and the surgeries were successful. Duane Moody for News Five.

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