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Jun 8, 2006

Rotary programme offers free cardiac care

Story PictureThe recent press briefing by the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital has highlighted the problem of affordability of health care for lower income Belizeans. Today that institution was the venue for a clinic that, while not solving the problem, at least helps a significant number of patients. News Five’s Alyssa Noble reports.

Alyssa Noble, Reporting
Heart Disease it?s the leading cause of death in Belize and yet many Belizeans don?t have access to affordable treatment. Today, the Rotary Club of Belize changed all that by sponsoring a free adult cardiac clinic, after a three year hiatus.

Yvette Burks, Gift of Life Coordinator, Rotary Club of Belize
?We had stopped doing them after we started having well qualified cardiologists here in Belize. Now, we have cardiologists here at Karl Heusner as well as private facilities in Belize; however, of course they are quite pricey and frequently there are so many people who can?t afford it. A very large number of our population still can not afford the four hundred and whatever dollars an echocardiogram is.?

According to Dr. Tom Sullebarger, attending cardiologist, an echocardiogram is only part of the diagnostic and treatment process. He asserts that with the type of heart disease afflicting many Belizeans procedures can actually cost much more.

Dr. Tom Sullebarger, attending Cardiologist
?I started coming to Belize in 2003, and so far we have been seeing patients with more common types of heart disease like coronary type of heart disease that causes heart attacks. But, we?ve also seen patients with weakening of the heart muscles, congestive heart failure, and certain types of valve disorders. And in the past we?ve treated patients with congenital heart disease, things like a hole in the heart and other abnormalities. I would say typically if the patient were to have an echocardiogram and an E.K.G. and a visit, it would probably cost about a thousand dollars. So, we?re probably going to see about fifty to sixty patients today so that?s probably about fifty, sixty thousand dollars worth of work that we do for free today.?

And there are many patients who say they owe their lives to those who make these clinics possible.

Judith Garcia, Patient
?I used to have a hole in my heart and it?s very difficult for me to live with that. I was feeling so tired, I couldn?t do my work, and sometimes I had to use oxygen so that my heart can start feeling better: I?m so very, very appreciative. I appreciate what they have done to me and I?m so glad, without their help I wouldn?t be here because I only had five years more to live.?

America Na, Patient
?Cuando estaba pequeñita me dijeron que solo iba a vivir cinco anos. Y después de eso, el Doctor dice que fue un milagro que ya tengo veinte ocho anos. Pero tuve que pasar tres suregias. (Translation: when I was much younger, they told me that I only had five years to live. After that ordeal, the doctor told me that it was a miracle that I am twenty-eight years old, but I had to undergo three surgeries.)?

Julie Gilharry, Patient
?When I was living in Camalote, and I took ill and I went to Belmopan Hospital and Dr. Murray started to take care of me and afterwards he told me I was having heart failure. He then sent me to Ms. Burks and I went to Ms. Burks and I asked her for help. They treated me good. I feel happy that they help me.?

But while complications of the heart can be attributed to number of factors, Dr. Curtis Samuels, cardiologist at KHMH, maintains that most of these problems are a direct result of changes in the way we live.

Dr. Curtis Samuels, Cardiologist, K.H.M.H.
?Since modern life has come upon us as such and we managed to adapt to it quite comfortably, we?ve changed our lifestyles and therefore, lifestyle change are also accompanied by the diseases that the first world or more developed countries are faced with. Because heart attacks and other manifestations of coronary heart disease are diseases that are more associated with a higher lifestyle and a higher standard of living.?

As to what can be done to counter heart disease in Belize, both Sullebarger and Samuels advise, that it?s time to get moving.

Dr. Tom Sullebarger
?Probably the single thing you could do is don?t smoke cigarettes and watch your weight and try to stay active physically.?

Dr. Curtis Samuels
?Basically what I can say is that physical activity is the key.?

Alyssa Noble for News Five.

In case you were wondering, the other leading causes of death in Belize after heart disease are: acute respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS, traffic accidents, diabetes, homicide and stroke.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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