Saying YES


Written by Jodi Grahl

The contents of Marian’s house are in boxes as she prepares to move her young family to another state. Cathy is just grateful to have a house, even if there is a new “window” in the wall of her bedroom since lightning struck and ignited fire to it last week.

So what did Marian and Cathy do this weekend? They said “yes to the mission trip they had been planning and they went to Bolivia. Dr. Marian Holland is an electrophysiologist or EP, A.K.A. a “heart electrician.” Cathy Aschbacher, RN, is a cardiac implant programming technician with the Biotronik Company. Susan Klosterman, PhD, is an assistant technician invited by Cathy to also help with Spanish translation, and who also said “yes.”

I have the privilege of escorting this incredible trio to Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, Bolivia from May 18-25 for Solidarity Bridge’s second Advanced Cardiac Implant Training Mission. Dr. Sameh Khouzam of the Dayton Heart Center headed our first such trip in 2013 to train top Bolivian EPs and cardiac surgeons in the implant and management of the most complex cardiac devices, in particular defibrillators (ICDs) and biventricular defibrillators (CRT-Ds). Marian will pick up where Sameh left off, working alongside our partners to do more implants, and offering seminars on trouble-shooting in ICDs. Cathy and Susan will train fellow Bolivian technicians in the management and follow-up of defibrillator patients, which is as critical as the implant itself for optimal outcomes.

We are especially blessed this year to enjoy the extremely generous support of both the Medtronic Corporation and Biotronik. Each provided a selection of these advanced devices and accompanying leads and accessories. This trip marks an important expansion of support from Biotronik, which also donated a new programmer that will stay in Cochabamba for the long-term follow-up of the patients to be served during this trip and beyond.

But was this really a good time for Marian, Cathy, Susan and me to drop everything at home and go to Bolivia? Yes! Because there are patients – many of them young mothers and fathers whose families depend on them for their survival – for whom it is an even worse time to get sick. Our homes, in some form or another, will be waiting for us when we get back. Now we have the chance to send several critically ill patients back to their homes, too.

Susan will be our guest blogger for this trip, so watch here for her updates!