Heart to Heart International Children’s Medical Alliance has begun the fourth annual surgical-educational mission to Rostov-on-Don Regional Cardiac Center. Located in Russia’s Southern Federal District near the Black Sea, the Cardiac Center serves children residing in the city itself (population over 1 million) and the surrounding region (population 4.5 million).
Heart to Heart's surgical work began on Monday, October 1. This year their team of fifteen includes pediatric cardiac specialists and support staff from several US cities, as well as the UK and the Tomsk Institute of Cardiology. Their surgical focus this year is Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF), often associated with "blue babies." TOF is the most common cyanotic heart abnormality, accounting;for nearly 10% of all congenital heart defects worldwide. Surgical and post-operative management of children with TOF is considered a critically important milestone in the development of a pediatric cardiac program. In the United States,children born with TOF receive surgical treatment within the first year of life. Thousands of Russian children born with TOF have not had access to surgical repair in a timely fashion. As a result, the ages of TOF surgical patients in Rostov-on-Don vary widely. Unfortunately, their advanced disease increases the complexity of treatment. Their youngest patient this week is ten-month-old Maksim. Their oldest TOF patients at the Center are in their twenties. Sadly, untreated TOF patients suffer considerably as children and many die as young adults. The Heart to Heart team is so happy to give these patients the surgery they need – and with it, a significantly increased higher quality of life as well as increased longevity. Yet they realize that their primary goal is to teach their Rostov colleagues what it takes to care for these patients themselves.