SPOKANE – A medical team from Spokane is doing something only four other teams in the world are doing: performing annual heart surgeries in Rwanda.
Imagine what might happen if Washington, Oregon and Idaho lost 75 percent of its medical system, including doctors, hospitals and medical schools. It seems unrealistic here, but it happened in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide.
But now, as the country slowly rebuilds, it’s getting outside help from some of Spokane’s medical experts. A local team from Healing Hearts Northwest is getting ready for its fourth trip to Rwanda in October. There, they will perform open heart surgeries to fix fatal heart problems that we just don’t see here in the United States.
Former Rwandan refugee Jean Claude sat down with KREM 2 News this week during his second trip to America. He is studying to eventually become a cardiologist in his own country, where there are only five cardiologists currently serving the entire country of over 10 million people.
Claude said the presence of Healing Hearts Northwest is speeding up change in Rwanda.
“Once the program started, there’s been a big difference,” he said. “Back six, five years ago, people couldn’t imagine maybe someone having open-heart surgery.”
Healing Hearts Northwest assistant director Sandy Goldberg said the medical challenge is overwhelming, but slowly, they are seeing change.
“Since the genocide, they lost many, many of their physicians and there are no physicians to mentor the new physicians coming out,” Goldberg said. “So that’s one of our main goals is to help these physicians practice better medicine and get some time with the physicians that have experience.”
Healing Hearts Northwest is still raising funds for its October mission. The biggest expense is to ship 6,000 pounds of medical equipment overseas. You can help the cause here.