Heartbeat Myanmar

Myanmar has been held hostage by strict sanctions for many years. Now that the country is opening and the sanctions have been lifted, big changes are coming swiftly. Not much was spent to improve medical care in the years of the sanctions. Now large allocations of funds have been allocated to improve the infrastructure and the doctors believe the equipment they need is forthcoming.

The mortality rate for children under 5 in Burma is 70/1000.  The neonatal mortality rate is 50/1000 live births. Like Vietnam and other developing countries, the unreported statistics from rural areas are probably much, much worse.

The situation in Myanmar for children with congenital heart defects is dire. Children in the provinces are simply told that there is nothing that can be done and they have to accept their fate.  With only 4 fully trained cardiac surgeons for a country of 60 million people less than 100 children’s surgeries were done last year. Vietnam has 90 million people and they have over 150 cardiac surgeons.

Robin King Austin, VCF CEO said “While visiting the new Yankin Children’s Hospital where Dr. Win Win Kyaw is the Cardiac surgeon, I met a room full of children who need help and looked just like the thousands we have helped in Vietnam. Two of these children were cyanotic, with difficult heart defects and need help urgently or their other organs will be damaged by lack of oxygen. “

Upon return to Vietnam, Austin wrote to several heart teams from overseas who all agreed to be part of a greater effort to supply the training they need. She also spoke to advanced surgeons in Vietnam about helping. They immediately agreed, saying, “We want to help them because someone came here to help us…it is good to give back.”

From  April 1-5, development staff and two advanced surgeons from Vietnam, visited Yangon to see the 4 cardiac units, observe, talk to the doctors and surgeons, and report back on training needs, recommendation for handling difficult cases, ICU HR capacity and equipment availability for difficult cases. Their report was used as a basis for planning a systematic step by step approach to their needs.

Dr. Nguyen Hoanh Dinh, Chief of Cardiac Surgery at University Medical Center in Ho Chi Minh City agreed to take the lead in planning the first step – bringing the Yankin team to Vietnam for training with the advanced Vietnam surgeons.

heartbeat myanmarDr. Dinh training Operating Room nurse anesthetist on the settings and the running of pulmonary bypass pump
(The red crash cart was a donation from VCF)

Phase 1: August 19- September 18, 2013

Bringing the Yankin Heart Team to Vietnam for training at University Medical Center, and Children’s Hospital I in Ho Chi Minh City

VCF has made a big difference in Vietnam and are excited to be able to replicate that work in Myanmar. Eight members of the heart team including surgeon, cardiologists, perfusionist, anesthesiologist, OR and ICU nurses and neonatologist arrived on August 18. The cardiologists worked with the heart team at Children’s I and the ICU team at University. The neonatologist worked with the newborn care team at Children’s I.

The Heart surgery team including the surgeon, perfusionist, anesthesiologist and nurses worked with University Hospital Cardiac surgery team.

Donor: This training trip to Ho Chi Minh City was sponsored by the Thoi Bao Community Foundation in Ottawa, Canada.

Phase  2: 2013-2014

The Myanmar team has just received confirmation of a donation from the Irrawaddy Foundation to build a 6 level pediatric cardiac center at Yankin Children’s hospital and from MOH to provide all equipment. VCF will work with the team to assure they have sufficient staff training for this big jump in capacity. Plans include collaboration with several advanced heart teams from around the world and a continuation of the mentoring by the Vietnamese advanced cardiac doctors.

This phase of training will utilize the talents  and dedication of many humanitarian heroes, cardiologists and surgeons who travel extensively every year train doctors and other members of the cardiac team in developing programs and the continued help of advanced Vietnamese cardiac surgeons.

Phase 2 will include:

  • Myanmar specialists returning to Vietnam for further training, for instance, Cardiologist Dr. Oo to Children’s Hospital I for pediatric cardiac catheterization training with Dr. Tin for 2-3 months.
  • Vietnamese surgical teams from Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi will visit Yangon and provide training and surgical expertise for more difficult and urgent cases. Teams from University Medical Center in Ho Chi Minh City and Vincom in Hanoi will travel to Yangon.
  • Humanitarian Training Heart teams from Geneva, Switzerland (Cours per Tous- Dr. A. Kalangos); Seattle, Washington, USA (CardioStart-Dr. Aubyn Marath); Massachusetts, USA (Dr. Antony Pezzella); Sydney, Australia (Russell Lee, Open Heart International) will visit Yangon to teach procedures and do surgeries. Pediatric Cardiac Intensivists Casey Culbertson and Winston Nguyen will also visit Myanmar to train the post operative ICU team. VCF will communicate with all the teams to assure a smooth and organized training curriculum based on the needs of the Yangon team.
  • Junior surgeons will go to Frontier Lifeline in Chennai, India for training with Dr. KM Cherian’s team at Frontier Lifeline for 1 year.
  • Frontier Lifeline team will travel to Myanmar for training missions.

Funding needed for Phase II is $52, 000 USD