Drs. Virna and Paulo reflect on their Solidarity Visit to Lurie Children’s Hospital

 Bolivian Doctors Virna Severiche, pediatric cardiologist, and her husband Paulo Burgos, cardiologist, just completed two weeks at Chicago’s Lurie Children’s Hospital on a Solidarity Visit to help shape our expanding children’s open heart surgery program in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. We asked them a few questions on their expectations, observations, and take-away, and they are happy to share their reflections in today’s blog post.

 Q.  What were you hoping to see or experience at Lurie Children's Hospital?  

A.  We were hoping to see how pediatric cardiac surgery works in the USA and learn anything new about the whole process of diagnosis and treatment of cardiac defects.

 Q.  What most surprised you?  

A.   The most surprising thing for us was the organization and punctuality of the medical and other health professionals. And, of course, all the technology and drugs that money can buy, but we were already expecting that.

Q.  What will you take back to your medical practice?

A.  Actually, the differences between USA and Bolivia are so many, but in a tiny, low-cost and step-by-step way ... at least similar things can be done, we hope, in the public hospital in Santa Cruz.

We have four major problems or obstacles:

a) The need to buy some equipment (infusion pumps, pediatric drainage tubes, etc.). That is easy to do but expensive to achieve.

b) We need to buy some medications that are not easy to find in Bolivia, because they are expensive for poor people and/or because almost no one uses them on a large scale so the drug companies are not interested in bringing them.

c) We need nurses who can be more helpful in postoperative patient care. We need to teach them and the public hospital’s intensive care doctors how to perform post-operative intensive care in each case. There are differences among cardiac defects, affecting post-operative care as well.

d) The most difficult but maybe the most important challenge is to change the mindsets of:

- The parents, who sometimes prefer their children die rather than expend money and time in saving their lives.

- The doctors and nurses who think that is too much trouble or too difficult to succeed in these procedures.

- And society, that knows almost nothing about diagnosis or treatment of cardiac defects. 

All this can be done by providing training and teaching basic information.

Thank you Drs. Virna and Paulo!  We look forward to working intensely with you in Santa Cruz in the coming months while, together, we to set up the first open-heart surgery program at a public children’s hospital in Bolivia.

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