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A Mission to Save Peruvian Children

Peruvian Child

Pediatric patient seen by cardiovascular faculty member and student in Peru

Margaret Relle, CVP Student

Ms. Margaret Relle, CVP Student

Alicia Sievert, Associate Professor

Ms. Alicia Sievert, Associate Professor

Adapted from The Catalyst by Ashley Barker

A group of cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, scrub nurses and perfusionists - including Ms. Margaret Relle, a second-year MUSC Cardiovascular Perfusion student, and Ms. Alicia Sievert, Associate Professor Division of Cardiovascular Perfusion - traveled to Lima, Peru, to help save children with congenital heart defects through surgery and to train local medical professionals. The first of 15 pediatric patients of their nearly week-long medical mission trip was a bright-eyed young girl, with no worry that she needed to have heart surgery in order to survive and live a normal life.

The anesthesiologists, cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, echo cardiologists, scrub nurses and perfusionists who had traveled to the Instituto Nacional de Salud del Niño from around the world through Heart Care International Inc. (HCI) were anxious to meet her. She would be the first patient that the group would face without the use of their traditional kinds of monitors and safety devices. Her surgery was a success. By the end of the day, she was sitting up with a lollipop in her mouth.

"Here, in the U.S., we rely a lot on technology for things I would take for granted — we have level detectors and bubble alarms, those are things that affect patient care. Over there we didn't have those things," Relle said.

"Over there you have to think 'what am I going to do, how am I going to build it and where am I going to put things?' If something went wrong in the states, I could now adjust it with a more ready and creative mind." Second-year MUSC perfusion student Margaret Relle uses medical tape to maintain parts of the heart-lung bypass machine.

"It was so humbling and moving that you could actually help all these children so freely," Sievert said. "Helping that one child is helping a huge family and all their friends who have to deal with this sick child. To be able to share that with a student was the best part for me."

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