In two weeks, the screening team begins their work! Nurse Practitioner Julie Carragher, from Braintree MA has coordinated screening now in her 5th year. Working closely with RBC (Rwanda Biomedical Center–the care delivery arm for the Ministry of Health), Julie has arranged for the first screening to be in Musanze, which is always one of our largest screening sites. We have been there multiple times, know the staff under leadership of CEO, Dr. Pascal and always look forward to this part of the trip.
The drive out of Kigali will begin to climb immediately, and as the team leaves in the yet dark morning, the road becomes alive with farmers going to market early. This drive is one of the most beautiful in Rwanda. But is 2.5-3 hours and as we drive, patients are lining up. The patients will have left home hours before to walk, take a mini-bus or a moto-to see the team. Many do not feel comfortable to speak English and our Rwanda team will be there to translate. Cardiologists, Dr. Jeanne De Cara, Evanston, IL and Dr. Patricia Come, Boston are both well-recognized heart failure cardiologists in the US. Both have traveled for more than 7 years with our team–and there is NOTHING they will not have seen before. Fierce advocates for their patients, they would like to see help for all we see (more about the Cardiac Center Rwanda needs in future posts) ….The team has other key members–our sonographers need a post of their own meet them here next week!
More than 400 beds, Ruhengeri Hospital serves more than 350,000 in the catchment area. Now with an ophthalmology clinic since 2015 and transitioning to a referral center, it is always busy. Musanze is a district and is home to the famed volcanoes; five of the eight Virunga Volcano Chain lie with its boundaries. Ruhengeri, now most often called Musanze is the principal city and the hospital lies on the main road near the police Academy. The area is fertile and always green and is center of agriculture and tourism. Because the surrounding mountains which are beautiful beyond belief, they are high and damp. It is a perfect environment for strep throat in overcrowded homes with small children. Without easy access to health care centers, strep throat might be undiagnosed and untreated and progress to rheumatic disease and to rheumatic heart disease. This area is where many of our patients come from.
Meanwhile, our Rwanda counterparts are busy as well. Most of these patients will have been ill for years, even though the average age is 18, and range from 12-32 years. They will have worked their way through the health care system to see a cardiologist and that could take months. Each patient has been followed and selected by 1 of the 2.5 cardiologists in the public sector which serve the 12 million population. The RBC will be making certain dental clearance, screening for infectious diseases and required paperwork has been done. The cardiologists will have discussed surgery and asked for their commitment to following advice of medical care post-operatively. It is the one chance they will have. We cannot do it without your help.