Local physicians reach out to Mexico


SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

This Valentine’s Day, local health officials will trade candy hearts for surgical tools.

Nicholas Von Bergen, a clinical assistant professor, heads the Pediatric Arrhythmia Outreach Fund. The outreach program funds medical missions each year to Mexico to provide care and resources to patients with abnormal heart rhythms. 

“The medical mission trip has been going on some time, and it has allowed our group to create relationships in the areas of high needs,” Von Bergen said.  “These trips are both good for the heart and for the soul, it is so valuable to see the support of the people who we are helping.”

Sunday marked the day Von Bergen and the team of health officials from the UI and the Des Moines area left the United States for Campeche, Mexico, where the team will examine patients who may have potential heart problems.

After nearly 20 years, Von Bergen said, the outreach health-care team has been able to grow in resources and ability to reach out to more and more patients each year.  From Sunday until Feb 15, the group will be working with cardiologists in Mexico to examine patients and give them the necessary treatments they often do not receive. 

“Areas of Mexico do not have the financial or medical resources to get the appropriate diagnosis and treatment,” Von Bergen said. “And children may go undetected if they have a major heart disease.”

The trip is organized and performed by a large number of people from UI Pediatric Cardiology, which provides physicians, experts, and the needed equipment, while Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines brings roughly 30 children back to Iowa every year for needed surgeries. 

M. Santiago Restrepo, a UI pediatric cardiologist fellow who has been on the trip with Von Bergen, said the trip’s goal is to provide medical expertise and adequate treatment.

Restrepo said there sometimes problems when children are born with heart defects, and they need immediate surgery. The Mexican doctors are unable to safely conduct the surgery, so the outreach program brings the children and family members to the United States for treatment.

“The trip is also possible by the help from the local health providers and group of mothers who coordinate the services, provide food, lodging, and translation,” Restrepo said. “Their hospitality is as big as their hearts.”

He said some of the patients are chosen for intervention surgery, electrophysiology treatment, and others are evaluated on a yearly basis.

“When we go, we provide instructions to the local doctors about each case, so that they can continue managing them,” Restrepo said. “In cases where there are defects that require surgery, we decide the time for the repair according to the effects on the heart function or other organs.”

Stephen Mooradian, a pediatric cardiologist at the Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, has also participated in the trips frequently since 2001.  He said at the end of the week, they choose a certain number of patients to bring to Des Moines to finish final treatments and help the patients recover after surgery before going back home to Mexico. 

“By going down there, we learn about significant heart disease that enables us to develop better knowledge to help kids in the states as well,” Mooradian said.  “This trip emotionally helps those who are less fortunate and help people who need our help.”

In today's issue:

Privacy Policy (8/15/07) | Terms of Use (4/28/08) | Content Submission Agreement (8/23/07) | Copyright Compliance Policy (8/25/07) | RSS Terms of Use

Copyright © The Daily Iowan, All Rights Reserved.