Mission: Panama

Mission Facts

  • Location: Panama City, Panama

  • Population: 880,691

  • Dates: 01/20/2017 - 01/30/2017

  • Focus: Cardiac

  • Complexity: Very High

  • Training: Very High

  • Average Mended: 10

Mission Brief

Where in the World
Panama is a country located in Central America. It is an isthmus bordered by Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The capital and largest city is Panama City, home to nearly half of the country's population. In 2005, approximately 29% of the population was under 15 years of age. The population included more than 417,000 Amerindians.

Healthcare in Panama
Healthcare in Panama is in the hands of two public entities: the Ministry of Health (Ministerio de Salud) and the Social Security System (Caja de Seguros Social). The latter runs the country’s public hospitals and clinics. One of the main issues with the Panamanian healthcare system is accessibility. While people living in Panama’s big cities usually have a choice of several hospitals and doctors, rural areas and the indigenous population suffer from a lack of access to good medical care. Often, only first-aid services are available, if at all.

Unfortunately this also applies to the private sector. While modern, state-of-the-art medical facilities are available in Panama City, none can be found in smaller towns or in rural areas. Recommended private hospitals in Panama City include the Hospital Nacional, the Clinica Hospital San Fernando, and the Hospital Punta Pacifica.

The Children
Statistically, 7 in 100 children (globally) are born with a congenital heart defect, with 3-4 requiring surgery. Many of the children helped on the Panama mission suffer from Total Anomaly of the Venus Canal Return or Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Return, a congenital heart defect that happens as the fetal heart-develops during pregnancy. In Italy, where our surgical team is based, one or two cases may present annually, however in Panama, two to tree cases are diagnosed each month.

Our young patients come from all over Panama, including remote areas in the province of Chiriqui, on the west coast. Many having endured long walks out of their mountain villages to reach roads in order to catch a long bus rides into the capital to the Hospital de Niños (HDN). The children range in age from 5 days to 13 years old, all with little time remaining in their young lives.

The Mission
In 2016, Lorena Castillo de Varela, the First Lady of the Republic of Panama, formally invited Mending Kids to Hospital de Niños (HDN) in Panama City, to provide support and an exchange of knowledge on neonatal and pediatric cardiac surgery, with a focus on surgical techniques, anesthesia and ICU recovery for complex cases. Led by Dr. Salvatore Agati and his team from Bambino Gesù Ospedale Pediatrico (veteran of our Tanzania mission), the mission is a collaboration between the Panama Ministry of Health, HDN, the people of Panama and Mending Kids.

Progress and Goals
Hospital de Niños sees 60% of the country’s children, providing only 20 cardiac surgeries annually. During one week in Panama, Mending Kids surgical team mended almost as many children as were helped in the entire year of 2015, and again in 2016 at HDN. The backlog is breathtaking and we plan to return to lend continued support in training and mending more children.

"Working in teams, in unity with a common goal, the objectives are achieved. Proud and grateful of the joint work of the Office First Lady Panama and MINSA that allows this surgical day to be carried out, making these children have stronger beating hearts.
Mending Kids, the country will thank you!"

- Lorena Castillo De Varela, First Lady of the Republic of Panama

Interested Volunteers
Although this mission is completed for this year, we would love for you to join us in the future! If you are interested in volunteering, review our FAQ section (click the Get Involved tab, then Mission Volunteer button) and then contact molly@mendingkids.org. The team fee for this mission is $3000 and will require a deposit of $500 to hold your spot.

Help today by giving to our cardiac mission to Panama providing expert training to local surgeons and healing the many children of Panama suffering from heart defects.

Mission Map