News and Updates

making a difference for heart patients in need

Dear Emirates Airline Foundation,

Although there have been trips to Tenwek, Kenya each year since 2008, they continue to be nothing short of transformative for those involved. It is difficult if not impossible to convey in words what we have seen, heard and felt first-hand. This year was again a two week cardiac camp, consisting of two overlapping teams of nurses, perfusionists, anaesthesiologists, cardiologists and surgeons, travelling to join what is becoming an independent cardiac program in rural northwest Kenya.

Having seen the development of this programme over the years, it is nothing short of astounding as to what has been accomplished by the team there. As in years past, the first “wave” of a mission arrives in order to get supplies prepared, both donated and those remaining on site. The advanced planning and work involved to even arrive is formidable but year after year, this is possible due to the voluntary work of many individuals and organizations.

Patients are soon to arrive as part of pre-surgical screening, some traveling across borders for long distances simply to see if their child can be offered a chance. What is different compared to years past is that there is already a list of patients waiting for an operation. It is no longer a matter of finding patients, but a matter of deciding who can wait, who cannot wait and who is, or is not an appropriate surgical candidate. The severity of disease that is seen is like nothing we see here in the United States, and serves as a sobering reminder that so much work remains.

making a difference for heart patients in need

Again this year, news was delivered to a handful of families that their child would in fact receive an operation. But far more commonly, news was delivered that there was nothing more that could be done. This screening continued through the two weeks to a point when all surgical slots had been filled, thereby closing the doors to some, so we could focus on the chosen work at hand. Other patients were scheduled for follow-up visits during the second week. Seeing patients from prior years, now smiling and doing well with excellent surgical repairs, offered at least some temporary comfort to those of us wondering how the prior week’s patients would fare without surgery and just how many more remain, yet to make it to medical attention.

Over the two weeks, a total of 21 surgical procedures were performed along with two cardiac catheterizations. The ability to perform these less invasive catheter based interventions now expands what can be offered at Tenwek, complementing the surgical programme. The lives of these individual patients and their families were clearly changed, in some ways dramatically.

Children who were destined to a life of progressive cardiac deterioration may now have a second chance. It remains unclear as to their long-term outcomes, but there is now hope for a future. But the impact of these trips extends not only to those measurable patients noted above. Through teaching and modeling, our Kenyan partners continue to advance as independent providers of cardiac care, for the present and looking ahead to the future. Moreover, those of us involved year after year are deeply affected as well. We return with new ways of seeing the world and are drawn deeper still into the real world that exists beyond our comfort zones. Those of us who participated were taught far greater lessons about life and what really matters. The ripple effects cannot be fully measured as we return to our intensive care units, clinics and home communities. Part of Kenya returns with us and we are different as a result.

We are thankful to partner again with the Emirates Airline Foundation, Take Heart Association Project and many others. Their support continues to make a difference far beyond what can be measured in two weeks. As we settle back into what once was considered normal, it is impossible to forget that so much more work remains, but having seen how far the program at Tenwek has developed, there is reason for hope.

On behalf of the 2016 Cardiac Team


J. Donald Moore, MD, MMHC
Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Division of Pediatric Cardiology
Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital

making a difference for heart patients in need

If you would like to support missions like this one by donating Miles to the Emirates Airline Foundation, log in to your Emirates Skywards account.

Make a donation