Performing better than twenty heart surgeries in two weeks, producing rich world outcomes under emerging world conditions, the ICHF has never been an organization to waste a lot of time. This was vividly illustrated on November 26th, day one of the foundation’s second trip to Benghazi, Libya.
Dr. Kathleen Fenton, who has overseen Operation Babyheart in Managua, Nicaragua for the last five years, and Dr. Cameron Greydon of Australia both arrived in Benghazi a day ahead of the mission to assess patients. The rest of the mission was greeted with an ambitious schedule the first day: three procedures in two theaters, with herself and ICHF volunteer surgeon Dr. Ali Dodge Khatami from Switzerland to perform the two VSDs and a PDA.
Most of the team arrived in Benghazi at 8:30 am on Monday morning, but didn’t leave the airport when the donated medical supplies we were carrying were inexplicably impounded. This was as problematic as it sounds. Sorting through the donated supplies needs to be done before the first patient arrives in the PICU. After a lot of bad noise at the airport, the team arrived at the Benghazi Medical Center at two in the afternoon, roughly the same time the first patient, Asmaa, was coming out of the operating theater.
Janine Evans, the team coordinator for the Libya mission, called the charge and the nurses scrambled to change into their scrubs to care for little Asmaa – as well as sort the supplies and set up a modern ICU. The impounded bags arrived at the hospital about an hour later.
These sort of minor fiascos are simply part of the experience on a babyheart mission: pulling order out of chaos is what they do. Asmaa, thankfully, is a brave patient who appears to be able to face anything as long as her hair is in proper pigtails. A lady needs her hairdo, and who can blame her?
With two operating theaters going, at the end of the day shift two more patients arrived in a neatly ordered PICU. So day one ended the way a lot of babyheart missions do: from a morass of strange problems being hammer out in a foreign language to – somehow – a safe and ordered haven for recovering children.