Taking Action Around the World - Uganda
In February 2012, 30 people from Children’s National Medical Center traveled to Uganda to provide much-needed care to children with severe heart disease. The team performed more than 200 echocardiographs on infants and children. They also treated many children with surgical intervention, including nine surgeries and the first cardiac catheterization ever performed in Uganda.
Craig Sable, MD, a pediatric cardiologist and Director of Echocardiography and Telemedicine and his team also worked on very important research collaboration between Children’s National and Mulago Hospital in Uganda. Senior cardiology fellow Andrea Beaton, MD, is leading groundbreaking research on treatment and prevention of the world’s most common heart disease, rheumatic heart disease.
Since his first mission to Uganda, Dr. Sable and his teams have screened nearly 1,000 children and have coordinated the care for more than 150 children who have traveled to the United States to receive treatment. Dr. Sable says 44 patients have been treated at Children’s National. In addition to Dr. Sable, several other members of the Children’s team have made many trips to Uganda. Biomedical Engineer Ozzie Rivera has been on 11 trips, and ICU nurses Krista Cato and Lynda Dattilio have been on five trips.
Most notably, Dr. Sable has led six cardiac surgery missions to Uganda since 2007 and coordinated additional surgical trips by other teams; over 150 children have undergone open heart surgery in Uganda. The Ugandan surgery team has done almost 20 open heart cases independently, joining Kenya and Ghana as the only countries that are performing open heart surgery independently in sub-Saharan Africa.
“When I first started going to Uganda, the sickest children had no other option but to travel abroad to get life-saving treatment,” said Dr. Sable. “Through our collaboration with the medical team at the Uganda Heart Institute, some patients are now able to get the treatment they need in their own country. We’ve certainly come a long way.”
Dr. Sable and his team have been working with the Uganda Heart Institute and a local hospital in Uganda to build a catheterization lab and train the staff to perform them. This year’s mission included performing surgeries on some of the most complex patients. The youngest patient treated was a 2-month-old who required surgery. The team performed two catheterization procedures in total, the very first for the country.
“To be a part of the first cardiac catheterization ever performed in Uganda was special,” said Dr. Sable. “It was a wonderful experience for the team at Children’s National, but more importantly, it provided invaluable hands-on experience for the medical team in Uganda.”
During this year’s trip, members of the Division of Genetics and Metabolism joined the Cardiology team in Uganda to screen for genetic problems in the children Dr. Sable has evaluated. This will provide previously unknown information about the variance and causes of congenital heart disease in different countries and provide a foundation for future research collaboration.
Dr. Sable plans to continue treating children in Uganda and hopes to bring more resources to the medical team in Uganda.