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Young Haitian Lives Saved in the Cayman Islands

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Four young Haitians returned to their home country last week having recently undergone life-saving heart surgery at Health City Cayman Islands.
The youngsters, aged between 6 and 16, travelled to Cayman last month to receive these vital surgeries, which were performed free of charge by Health City cardiac surgeons, led by Dr. Binoy Chattuparambil, a senior cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon, and Dr. Sripadh Upadhya, a senior pediatric cardiologist.
The surgeries were the first performed under Health City’s partnership with Have a Heart, a philanthropic organisation formed in 2000 by Harry Chandi and Manu Chatlani. The charity has supported more than 6,000 pediatric heart surgeries in India to date. Chandi is now broadening this work and is in the process of forming Have a Heart Cayman with Gene Thompson, project director at Health City Cayman Islands.
Staff working at Haiti Cardiac Alliance, a US-based non-profit organisation that has facilitated cardiac surgery for 58 Haitian children and young adults since early 2012, identified the Haitian patients as in desperate need of such surgery.
Among the key stakeholders making the initiative possible was mobile telecommunications operator Digicel, which facilitated transportation for the young patients and their parents to and from the Cayman Islands.
Owen Robinson, Executive Director of Haiti Cardiac Alliance, said there are more than 200 children on its surgical waiting list, a number that grows by the week. He said the organisation was delighted to be contacted by staff at Health City Cayman Islands about a year ago to see how they could assist.
“Half have conditions that can’t be dealt with in Haiti because they are too complex. These young people may also need intensive care after surgery. We are so excited to be working with Health City because we knew they would have the facilities and abilities that we don’t have in Haiti right now.”
Robinson said the surgeries went incredibly well and the young people were up and about soon after surgery, eating, smiling and relieved they were through the ordeal. Some had even begun to learn a few words of English and were happy talking with Health City’s staff.
“Staff at Health City were incredible, not only within the hospital, but they also went shopping for toys and snacks for the children,” Robinson said. “They went out of their way to make the patients feel at home.”
Dr. Chandy Abraham, Medical and Facility Director at Health City, said the Caribbean hospital was honoured to be of service.: “When we met with Haiti Cardiac Alliance last year in Haiti we realised just how great the need was for our services, especially among young people. Haiti Cardiac Alliance does a tremendous job in pushing hard to scale up surgical opportunities in Haiti and overseas, and we were privileged to assist them in reaching their goal of helping those in critical need of help.”
Raul Nicholson-Coe, Chief Operating Officer with Digicel Cayman, said the company was delighted to be supporting the initiative. “Across all of our markets worldwide, we are firmly committed to giving back to our communities and to helping those most in need. In Haiti for instance, this has seen us building 150 schools and providing education to 50,000 children each day.”
“The children are a credit to themselves and we’re touched by their incredible bravery and positivity. We hope this is the beginning of a much wider initiative,” he added.
Owen Robinson said Digicel’s contribution was significant to the initiative: “Without the use of the company’s plane the youngsters would have needed to travel via the United States and would require transit visas – adding thousands of more dollars in airfares which was not a viable option,” he said.
Haiti Cardiac Alliance’s goal is to ensure that more than 100 children access surgery in 2015. “Eventually, to keep up with the incidence, we need to reach a level where at least 500 children access surgery each year,” Robinson said. There are at least 50 kids among those on our list who are at high risk of death within the next six to nine months if we cannot get them the care they need.”
Gene Thompson said Have a Heart Cayman looked forward to extending its charitable offering to many others in dire need. “It’s a blessing to see how much better those children were when then left Cayman and the new lease on life they had,” he said.
“Demonstrating compassion and care for our neighbours is at the heart of Health City Cayman Islands’ mission,” said Dr. Abraham. “Along with our partners, we look forward to embarking on more projects such as this in the near future to touch many more lives in the Caribbean.”

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