Surgeons of Hope’s COVID-19 Response – The Invincible Heart Guides Us Through the Shadows

For all of us, the past few months have been incredibly challenging as we have learned to navigate life in a global pandemic. In a matter of days, Surgeons of Hope’s plans for 2020 were turned upside down as COVID-19 began to spread rapidly throughout the world, and threaten the wellbeing of our pediatric cardiac programs and the patients and families we serve in Latin America.

Such an unprecedented situation requires an unprecedented response, and at Surgeons of Hope we responded exactly that way! The strength of any organization, indeed its relevance, depends upon its ability to meet the needs presented by any given situation with creativity, efficiency and collaboration. Now, as the crisis continues to evolve at a serious but somewhat more manageable pace, I’d like to share with you several areas of COVID 19’s impact on SoH and our organization’s responses to them thus far:

    • PRIORITIES: The safety of our staff, partners, healthcare workers, patients and volunteers is our top priority. Our team in New York City has been working remotely since mid-March and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
    • PROGRAMMING: As the coronavirus has impacted each of our country’s programs (Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Paraguay), our surgical missions have been temporarily halted. Abiding by local government requirements to suspend activities in local communities so as to prevent the spread of COVID-19, international travel has been suspended as well. This has disrupted the carefully-planned timeline for SoH’s 2020 medical outreach and overseas ICU nurse trainings.
    • PARTNERSHIPS: COVID-19 has been devastating for the poor families we serve as their livelihoods and safety nets were already very fragile. We have remained in close contact with our international partners in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Paraguay to understand how we can best support them during this uncertain time. In early April, Dr. Nancy Garay, Head of Cardiology at the Acosta Ñu Children’s Hospital in San Lorenzo, Paraguay reached out to us with an urgent need. What initially was a request for food rapidly morphed into a comprehensive COVID-19 response, including food, hygiene products, cleaning supplies and medication. With the generous support of the SoH community, $10,430 was quickly raised to help patients served by SoH, and other poor children in need. With the unceasing efforts of Dr. Garay, care packages were distributed to over 50 families both inside and outside of the Acosta Ñu Children’s hospital. This fast and practical response in the midst of a crisis — unfolding in real time — enabled our cardiac patients and their families to remain healthy!Last month, partnering with CEPIA, SoH helped 30 families in Guanacaste — the second poorest region in Costa Rica – with care packages containing 30 days’ worth of food and cleaning supplies. Many of the recipients of these care packages were children who had undergone open-heart surgery at the Children’s Hospital SoH partners with in San José. Such collaboration has been the driving force of Surgeons of Hope since our beginning in 2001. This is how we work!
    • PROGRESS: Our efforts to feed our patients and their families continues in Nicaragua as we see that there is nothing normal about our “new normal.” At Surgeons of Hope, we pride ourselves on our ability to pivot and provide for those we serve. But, we also know that heart disease is not taking a break, and that our mission of helping children with heart disease is more important than ever. While we wait for the lifting of global travel restrictions, we are working with our partners to find ways to support them remotely. Due to COVID-19, they are facing a severe shortage of supplies (such as specialized sutures for open heart surgery) and medication that will keep babies born with congenital heart disease alive long enough to undergo surgery. To ensure children can continue to receive the life-saving heart surgery they need, we are launching a new campaign – with a $15,000 goal – to help provide these critical supplies and medication.

Thank you for continuing to support the patients we serve! We are moving forward with optimism, resilience and gratitude as the invincible hearts of the Surgeons of Hope community guides us through the shadows.