It takes a special kind of courage and determination to leave your home, learn a new language, and train for five long years to become an intensivist; to be handed a freshly repaired heart and navigate the child’s next 24-48 hours of critical care, ensuring that he or she recovers and makes it home to the embrace of their loving family. I’m thrilled to be in Mauritius this week reconnecting with Vivienne, an intensivist from Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute (JKCI) in Dar es Salaam, whose very name embodies her spirit. Vivienne, derived from the Latin word “vivus,” meaning “alive,” represents her commitment to breathing life into the patients she tends to.
Vivienne was trained in Israel by our friends at Save a Child’s Heart (SACH). She returned to Dar es Salaam, fluent in Hebrew, to support Dr. Godwin Sharau, Tanzania’s first cardiac pediatric surgeon, who also graduated from the SACH program. For the past eight years, visits from Mending Kids and other surgical teams have provided a safety net as JKCI increases the complexity of congenital heart disease its staff is able to treat. In those eight years, our partnership has mended 245 kids. The institute now operates independently on about 200 children a year.
Vivienne was recruited by Dr. Salvatore Agati, from the Vatican’s Centro Cardiaco Pediatrico del Mediterraneo, to travel with him on several missions, including a recent trip to Libya. This week, she is here with Dr. Agati and his team at the Cardiac Center in Pamplemousses, Mauritius, to provide guidance and share her knowledge with the local ICU staff as they care for newly mended hearts. It fills us all with immense pride and pleasure to see her in action. Vivienne’s well-earned accomplishments have made her a shining example of what’s possible when different groups with similar goals come together to support one another and build surgical capacity.
To top it all off, Vivienne was recently accepted to pursue a Masters in Healthcare Quality and Safety at Harvard University! We could not be more proud of her. So here’s to all the Viviennes out there. Here’s to strong, intelligent, driven women who set out to make a difference. Here’s to Mauritius, Here’s to the future of sustainable critical surgical care in Africa and the Indian Ocean. Life is now.
Together, we are Mending Kids.
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