International Children’s Heart Foundation Gives Via Traveling ‘Miracle’ Doctors

International Children’s Heart Foundation (ICHF)

In A Nutshell:

ICHF strives to correct heart defects in children by providing direct care (usually surgery); sending medications, surgical supplies and diagnostic equipment abroad; and training developing country surgeons and medical team staff so they ultimately can provide care for their own people.

Why They Rock:

  • Founder Dr. William Novick and fellow surgeons have performed almost 5,000 pediatric cardiac surgeries in 26 countries.
  • Their staff in 2011 will complete over 40 trips in a year; usually medical teams travel two weeks at a time to a variety of countries such as Iraq, Nicaragua, and Croatia.
  • The Oscar winning documentary Chernobyl Heart features Dr. Novick and team saving the life of child during heart surgery.

50Give Experience:

It was a good thing few doctors were present during my visit in Memphis at the ICHF headquarters, because they were off in developing countries preforming heart surgery for children. 1% of the world’s population is born with heart disease, only about 1/3 are actually diagnosed, and fewer receive life-saving surgery…if no procedure is done early in their life then the child dies.

Upon arrival friendly staff members Lori and Amy sat me down to experience the compassionate and tireless work of ICHF via DVDs, and I was deeply moved by Chernobyl Heart, a documentary that focuses on the continuing health issues of children affected by the worst nuclear accident in history highlighting human deformities with a focus on holes within the heart – a defect commonly known as a ‘Chernobyl Heart’ in the Ukraine area. I tried to hide my emotions while watching these videos but I couldn’t hold back tears…especially for the abandoned orphans who will spend a lifetime in a crib.

Amy brought in The Commercial Appeal (Memphis paper) who published a great article summarizing the low cost to save a child’s life via ICHF, plugged the 50Give tour, and snapped a great action photo. The reporter asked why I selected ICHF, and I explained anything with kids is important – especially infants born into unfavorable situations, and I personally wanted to highlight and thank doctors for their service to humanity…one is my dedicated father.

My next task was to organize documents for Dr.Gilbert who just returned from a trip abroad…he mentioned travel can take a toll mainly due to the distance from family but he says it’s all worth it…I can imagine keeping another family member alive, a total stranger, a child, is probably something indescribable to explain. The monthly pattern for the medical teams is usually two weeks abroad, then two weeks home (6 months a year), and I thought being on the road for four months away from loved ones was difficult…hats off to the ICHF medical teams!

Next, I helped dominate office tasks for Tim, Jean, and Lori: sort donated medical supplies for upcoming trips, assemble ‘doctor request’ letters to volunteer their services, and compile press packets…they kept me busy until closing time and I was honored to help.

Memphis was a quick stay but I was lucky to experience the amazing hospitality of Aaron: “King of Couchsurfing’…Elvis was overshadowed by the amount of positive reviews he receives online, and I was there with another chill ‘surfer’ from Atlanta known as Rocio (yes, real name…rock-starish, very appropriate for the town). We bonded over old records and managed to have a dance-off: massive video coming soon…

I never met the tireless Dr.Novick, but saw a video clip post-surgery in the Belarus area of him addressing the patient’s family, the mother and father filled with tears of gratitude while  kissing Novick’s hand. The camera quickly followed Novick and the reporter asked how he deals with the reactions of families, and his emotional response (not verbatim), “this is what I do…to them (patient/family), we performed a ‘miracle’…it’s difficult to accept that type of gratitude, we have a certain responsibility.”  You could tell he has passion beyond the craft of repairing human bodies – he keeps the human spirit alive, that of a child.

This 50Give Journal entry is dedicated to my father and his co-workers for their cardiovascular services especially for their pro bono work.



Chernobyl Heart (worth every second):


Photos (Graphic – a few human deformities & surgery):

“If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.” Maya Angelou

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