What impact can one U.S. doctor make in one week?

Pacemaker Program partner, Dr. Benjo Gareca, and U.S. electrophysiologist, Dr. Sameh Khouzam, performing a CRT-D defibrillator implant at Clínica Belga in Cochabamba. Dr. Sameh Khouzam of the Dayton Heart Center, an electrophysiologist specializing in all types of cardiac pacemaker and defibrillator implants, is just back from a one-week mission trip on behalf of Solidarity Bridge's Pacemaker Program.

Between April 28th and May 4th, Dr. Sameh worked shoulder-to-shoulder with seven Bolivian implanting partners. Working together, they performed 11 cardiac implants, consisting of two defibrillators (ICDs), five biventricular ICDs (CRT-Ds) and four dual chamber pacemakers. Patients included 5 women and 6 men ranging in age from 45 to 68.

The mission worked at three hospitals in two cities: Clínica Médico Quirúrgica Boliviano Belga (Clínica Belga) in Cochabamba, and Clínica Incor and Hospital San Juan de Diós in Santa Cruz.

In addition to the surgical training, Dr. Sameh presented two conferences on diagnosis, implant procedures, and follow-up for the implantation of advanced cardiac devices (ICDs and CRT-Ds). The conferences were attended by a total of 34 doctors.

Dr. Sameh worked especially closely with our newest implanting partner in Santa Cruz, Dr. Roberto Mercado. In addition to implanting six devices, they held a pacemaker monitoring clinic for past Solidarity Bridge pacemaker recipients. Through this clinic, Dr. Mercado received hands-on training in the use of the pacemaker programming equipment for twice-yearly monitoring and adjustments.

For Solidarity Bridge’s year-round Pacemaker Program, Dr. Sameh delivered on our behalf a shipment of 46 pacemakers and 96 leads donated by the Medtronic Corporation, valued at $810,000, as well as other equipment including pacemaker programmers.

Here's a story of one of the 11 patients who received a cardiac implant during this mission trip:                     



Angela is a 45-year-old mother of five. Her husband is unemployed, so the couple sustains the family by making and selling straw-filled mattresses.

Angela was infected with Chagas disease at a young age, most likely while growing up in the town of Cercado, near Cochabamba. Around age 37, she began to suffer dizziness and other cardiac symptoms, leading to her first diagnosis of Chagas-related cardiomyopathy. Angela’s poverty and the pressure to prioritize her children’s daily needs prevented her from seeking treatment. By early 2013, she suffered unremitting chest pain, fatigue and light-headedness. Doctors informed her that a pacemaker implant was her only chance for survival.

Dr. Mercado and Dr. Khouzam implanted Angela’s dual chamber pacemaker on May 2, 2013, at the San Juan de Diós Hospital. Angela has returned to her family with a new lease on life, and is very grateful that she will now be able to see her children grow. Dr. Mercado will continue to monitor Angela’s condition and make the necessary adjustments to her pacemaker at the PuenteSol pacemaker monitoring clinic located across the street from the San Juan de Diós Hospital.


Solidarity Bridge gratefully recognizes our missioner, Dr. Sameh Khouzam, for leading the 2013 Advanced Cardiac Implant Training Mission. His commitment illustrates the powerful impact one person can have on innumerable lives -- not only the 11 patients served and their families, but also each of the future patients who will benefit from the increased capacities of our Bolivian partners.

Thank you also to our PuenteSol collaborators, in particular Carlos Laserna, as well as Beatriz Rojas, María Inés Uriona, and José Choque, for their key roles in this mission trip and in the year-round Pacemaker Program. We are very grateful for the assistance and participation of the seven Bolivian pacemaker implant partners and colleagues who participated in the 11 implant surgeries: Doctors Luis Mercado, Benjo Gareca, María Luísa Avendaño, Carlos Brockmann, Joaquin Navarro, Juan Uriona, and Roberto Mercado, as well as each of the host hospitals and their staffs.

“This trip was a call from God and I knew he wanted us there for a reason. We were blessed to be on this trip.” Reflection by Dr. Sameh Khouzam shortly after his return from Bolivia.