SAVING CHILDREN. Dr. Rodrigo Soto (right) of Gift of Life International, with Rotary Club of Cebu’s treasurer Walter Cang (second from right) and immediate past president Bing Martinez (second from left), and Rotarian Mike Edinburn (left), who had surgery at two years old, talks about their training program for pediatric cardiac surgery at Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center on Friday, June 21, 2019. (SunStar File Photo/Amper Campaña)
June 22, 2019
FOR years, infants from the Visayas and Mindanao with cardiac cases have had to be sent to Manila to get medical intervention.
This is something the Rotary Club of Cebu (RCC), the second oldest Rotary club in the Philippines, along with the Gift of Life International, aims to address through its Gift of Life Program and Vocational Training Team (VTT) projects.
RCC member Walter Cang said the VTT they have introduced to the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) is a two-pronged initiative. It aims not only to save lives of indigent children suffering from complex congenital heart diseases (CHD), but also to empower Cebuano medical professionals in the field of pediatric-cardiac procedures.
“In doing so, patients from the Visayas and Mindanao do not have to go to Manila anymore. It also relieves the pressure of the Philippine Heart Center in keeping all the cases thrown at them from everywhere else around the country,” he said.
Around 20 medical professionals with various specialties in pediatric cardiac surgery, including surgeons, anesthesiologists, scrub nurses, intensive care unit nurses and doctors, and cardiologists, compose the VTT.
Dr. Rodrigo Soto, a clinical instructor of the Gift of Life and head of the VTT, said pediatric cardiology and pediatric cardiac surgery are very complex specialties that require extensive training.
“Most of us have spent over 10 or 15 years training in order to do this. Therefore, we need to focus on one place in order to develop this program. Here in Cebu, we work only with Vicente Sotto (VSMMC),” he said.
“We envision that in three to five years, the VSMMC can have its own team of cardiac-pediatric experts,” said Bing Martinez, also an RCC member.
The VTT project began in VSMMC in June 2018. It was followed by a second visit in September 2018, another in December 2018, and then on June 7 to 21, 2019.
Cang said 180 VSMMC staff have benefited from the project.
“The last time, December 2018, I remember about 180 have been involved in this training. Everyone from nurses, to anesthesiologists, to pediatric surgeons, and even biomedical engineers,” he said.
Soto said they were able to cater to 39 beneficiaries of the Gift of Life Program during their recently concluded two-week visit.
“We were able to perform 16 surgeries and 23 catheterization procedures for the entire two weeks that we are here,” he said.
Among the patients was Ramner Simon Glindro, 9, diagnosed with supravalvar pulmonary stenosis, a heart disease in which the portion of the pulmonary artery just above the pulmonary valve is narrowed.
Rosemarie Espinoza, Ramner’s mother, said he has undergone a catheterization process through the VTT project and is now scheduled for pediatric cardiac surgery in September.
“Although there is always the feeling of uncertainty, I am still very thankful that we have the Gift of Life program since I could not afford to pay for surgery,” she said.
Martinez said all four visits of the VTT and the Gift of Life Program were made possible through various fund-raising activities the RCC undertook, like the annual Gift of Life Fun Run.
“We do the fun run not only to raise funds for the Gift of Life but also to make people aware of the problem and let them know that it is not wrong to have a congenital disease,” he said.
The RCC and Gift of Life International have also acquired a global grant with Rotary International.
“We were first granted a global grant worth $267,000. We, the members of the RCC, also contribute our own share to fund this project,” Martinez said.
He said they are now working for a second grant in order to continue what they have started.