Dear readers, My name is Erneste Simpunga, I'm 29 years old. It's been 12 years since Team Heart saved my life. Born and raised in Rwanda, at age of 16 I was diagnosed with Rheumatic Heart Disease that severely damaged two of my four heart valves to the point that surgery was the only solution to replace those valves. By the time my diagnosis was made, my country had only 2 cardiologists and zero heart surgeon. My family was asked to raise $15000 to go to India for surgery but it was a dream. Staying on medications from 2006 to 2008 my physician informed us that there is a charity organization that in collaboration with our government is coming to offer free surgeries to all suffering patients. Their first trip to Kigali, Rwanda was in April 2008. The bad news was that I was too sick (75pounds) to survive this major operations. However, the good news was that other 12 fellow patients were potential candidates and successfully had their surgeries and were discharged home. The other good news was that Team Heart gave me a second chance to go to Boston as a safe place for a safe operation free of charge. Dr. Chip Bolman, a heart surgeon and his wife, a nurse as the founders of this organization offered me a place at their home and he with his team at the Brigham and Women's Hospital did my surgery in July 29, 2008 and I returned to my beloved country in November 2008. For Team Heart, the challenge of selecting only 12 to 16 patients from thousands of sick patients has made them work so much harder to return annually and save more of previously screened patients. Also, coming back a year late and see the 16 patients previously operated on gives so much pleasure to even work more harder on innovative ways to save a huge number of patients. There is a lot of rheumatic heart disease here and probably even a large number of undiagnosed cases. Many young female and male Rwandese die undiagnosed. Team Heart has also directly transferred skills to local nurses and doctors over this 12 year period of their annual visits. Their mentorship has recently produced the first Rwandan cardiothoracic surgeon. My experience with inspiration from Team Heart has made me change my mind to persue a degree in journalism or pilot and go to medical school, and I'm getting a medical degree from the University of Rwanda School of Medicine and Pharmacy on my 30th birthday (November 8,2019) with plans to go on with additional training to become a cardiologist and help others the same way I was helped. Much has been done by this wonderful organization, but there is even much more to be done yet. Please kindly consider making a donation to Team Heart to help save thousands of so young people who would otherwise have no future. With love and gratitude for your donations, Erneste SimpungaTeam Heart patient 2008. University of RwandaM:+250788492879E: firstname.lastname@example.org
I have been able to volunteer with Team Heart by going to Rwanda , and having in so many ways, the experience of a lifetime. As a cardiac nurse, I was able to help to care for the post op patient, where the hope was to repair the damage done to young hearts, due to the lack of basic healthcare availability in this country. Team Heart has shown commitment, and integrity in their commitment to the people of Rwanda, in addition to returning year after year to care for the patient in need of surgery, but also by helping to develop Rwanda's ability to eventually have a hospital of their own, and the capacity to provide the care themselves. What a committed group of volunteers, and what a goal to help to realize.
This organization is more than a wonderful team, it's a FAMILY. The yeah members, the patients and theIr families are so involved and truly care. Team Heart had an impact, more than anyone can ever imagine.
I made my first trip with to Rwanda in 2010 as a cardiac ultrasound sonographer/volunteer with TEAM HEART- I went to help the team select patients with rheumatic heart disease that could be helped by cardiac surgery- My images were the tool that helped cardiologist and surgeon assess the severity of disease, the likelihood that surgery was going to make a difference, and then to help follow their recovery post op. It has been the highlight of my professional life- the commitment, teamwork and dedication of my team members, and the connection to the patients, has encouraged me to complete 10 trips for this, and am on the verge of the 11th. Unlike the practice in the States where we see a patient for 1 appt and then another department takes over, these patients are individuals whose health and fate belong to all of us involved. There is such a huge need- who gets selected for the lifeboat-it's a vital and sobering responsibility- We see them in follow up in subsequent visits,now thriving and getting a new chance at a future- it's like a family reunion each year- we celebrate their growth, their return to work or school. And we also watch the local staff members grow in knowledge as we teach and mentor- Residents, nurses and doctors are their primary caregivers, so I have taught every day I work there- Our goal is to graft our experience onto the local teams so they are empowered to do this job well on their own.
I volunteered with Team Heart as a critical care RN in the ICU in February 2019. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I am very fortunate to be able to return this coming February 2020. All the volunteers I met were dedicated to the cause and provided quality patient care. The patients and families were so appreciative and it was great to be able to help provide the necessary cardiac care to allow them to return to their normal lives. Team Heart is an amazing nonprofit and I wish I had started volunteering with them earlier.
2020 will be my 5th mission with Team Heart♥️ I have been humbled by my experiences and have a deep appreciation of Rwanda and her people!
I am proud to tell everyone about this wonderful group of dedicated volunteers!
Not only do they organize the yearly Mission Trips they have also assisted in the organization of infrastructure to follow-up their patients. From INR monitoring to echocardiograms they have trained Rwandan professionals to perform these skills.
The goal was always to build a sustainable cardiac surgery program in Rwanda and they are almost there! While it will be bittersweet to end this journey, it will mean that many more Rwandans will be able to receive life-saving heart surgery♥️
For the past 10 years I have traveled to Rwanda with a medical team to perform heart surgeries on people afflicted with rheumatic heart disease. This is a totally preventable disease.
We are getting closer for our Rwandan colleagues to take on this mission and be a sustainable program.
Since 2008 hundreds of lives have been saved and it all started because someone thought it was possible.
Team Heart is ALL heart! I traveled with them on 3 trips 2013,2014 and 2015. I know we went there to change the lives of those suffering from rheumatic heart disease and give them a better chance at survival. But what those mission trips really did was change my life. The people of Rwanda we're so grateful for our willingness to help them. It was genuine and I will never forget the patients that received surgery and looked into my eyes and gave me a sincere thank you! It was different than anything I have ever felt from a patient in my 20+ years of experience in open heart surgery!! I still follow some of the patients whom I had the privilege of operating on with the cardiothoracic surgeons and staff from the United States. More importantly the Rwandan surgeons, nurses and staff who were eager to learn from us so that they could help their fellow Rwandans. I'm forever grateful for the opportunity to join this amazing team who selflessly gives their vacation time and their incredible medical expertise. Team Heart is an incredible organization! Thank you Chip and Ceeya Bolman ❤️
Team Heart is an amazing group of selfless, and skilled clinicians and volunteers, all dedicated to helping young Rwandans suffering from Rheumatic Heart Disease. As a volunteer with this organization since 2008, I have not only seen first hand the successes, through hundreds of young lives saved, but also the focus on education and transfer of expertise to the Rwandan physicians, nurses and health care workers. It has been incredible to witness the work of this great organization over the past decade.
Team Heart has changed my life. I started working with team heart when I was 25 and have been on 4 medical missions. I instantly fell in love with the place. The work they do is amazing. The happiness and gratitude these patients have after realizing they have a second chance at life is priceless.
I am a Cardiology Nurse Practitioner that has traveled annually to Rwanda with Team Heart since 2013. I have seen first hand the impact Team Heart has had on the patients suffering from Rheumatic Heart Disease. Providing life saving Cardiac surgery has enabled so many to return to a normal and healthy life that otherwise would not have been possible. In addition to providing Cardiac surgery, Team Heart provides Medical and Nursing Education and ongoing patient support. I am blessed to be a volunteer with Team Heart.
I have been involved since 2012, and have been very impressed by the commitment and positive attitude of everyone on the team. When we're in country on the mission, the volunteers put in long hours, without complaint. They go the extra-mile to not only give good patient care, but also to train local staff so continuity of care can continue long after we're gone. This truly is an organization, 100% committed, to improving the lives of those suffering from rheumatic heart disease.
It has been an incredible privilege for my husband and I to be volunteers with Team Heart since 2012. The directors and other volunteers are some of the most hard-working, caring, giving, amazing people you will ever meet. To see our patients' lives change, from being bedridden with poor prognoses, to recovery with hope for the future, has definitely been life-changing for us! Team Heart is extremely dedicated to providing critical, life-saving medical care to those in need, as well as training local hospital staff and medical providers so Rwanda can have their own sustainable heart surgery program in the future.
Team Heart has been providing life-saving cardiac care to young adults in Rwanda for 12 years! I am so proud to be a part of this team and work alongside our Rwandan colleagues. The people of Rwanda are beautiful, both inside and out and I am honored to be a part of Team Heart.
Team Heart is a well organized group that not only saves lives, they also teach the local professionals how to do the job themselves so that they caneventually continue on independently. They have wonderful screening and follow through with their patients so that they will have a high level of success post operatively. The whole community is part of the plan, family, local physicians, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists, transportation etc. They really are a fantastic organization, one I am proud to have had the opportunity to work with as an ICU nurse.
Team Heart is made up of people who truly care about making a difference in the lives of those who are most in need. Team Heart provides free life saving cardiac surgery to children and young adults in Rwanda who would otherwise not have access to medical care. The pictures attached are from the 2018 trip to Kigali, Rwanda. The first picture is of Jeannette. A few days prior to this photo she had open heart cardiac surgery and already she was feeling much better than before her life saving valve replacement . She now has a bright future ahead of her and the ability to finish school and find a job. Both of these would have been unattainable prior to surgery. Team Heart's ultimate goal is to build a cardiac surgery program fully staffed by Rwandans. Last year they finally had their first Rwandan cardiac surgery in the operating room. This was a major milestone for the organization and for Rwanda. A cardiac program in Rwanda has the potential to save even more young people but they need help of donors to reach this goal. Please consider helping Team Heart in their mission of treating heart disease in Rwanda.