Los Cabos Children’s Foundation Patches Hearts

Remember this 3 hanky story next time they pass the hat for funds
BY: CARRIE DUNCAN

Each year more than 50 children are born in Baja who will need heart surgery sometime in their lives. That’s about average for a population this size. These children are figuratively left on a mountain top by the overwhelmed health care system, which doesn’t even try to treat them.

Enter the Los Cabos Children’s Foundation, who’s mission is to provide medical, educational, and humanitarian assistance to southern Baja children and their families. They do this through tireless fundraisers raising and dispensing those funds to eight different charitable organizations throughout southern Baja.

Let’s talk about just one of those eight, Abriendo Corazones, which would be Opening Hearts in English.

Opening Hearts is building an accredited pediatric cardiac program for children in our state of Baja California Sur. They are in cahoots with Omaha Children’s Hospital and Medical Center. Last year Opening Hearts was granted $250,000 by the Los Cabos Children’s foundation and it falls to Greg Edwards, the executive director of Opening Hearts, to stretch this money as far as possible. Edwards also rustles up as much equipment and supplies in the States that he can, driving it down to Los Cabos himself in his truck.

Edwards also is in charge of the logistics of bringing down an entire team of doctors twice a year to crack open the hearts and train the locals to take over the entire program themselves.

The first round seven years ago had a team of 27 Americans, but that number has steadily decreased to the 14 or 15 that they run now. They bring down fewer people because local medical personnel have been trained in those positions.

 Most significantly, the first team consisted of  the do-ers but now they are here for assistance to the locals who are now the do-ers. This is true in most areas except for the actual heart surgeon, but even at this position, they are training Dr. Raul Mar to eventually take over.

They also continue to send Baja medical personnel to Omaha to train, which hastens the path to self sustaining heart care in Baja.

All this is done at the Suguro Popular hospital called Salvatierra in La Paz. Suguro Popular is run by the state and is primarily for people who don’t have other medical insurance. The state, while being no easier to work with than any bureaucracy anywhere, has been generally supportive and the state government officials take pride in having advanced surgery capabilities.

This round of surgeries was headed by Dr. James Hammel, Chief Pediatric Cardiac Surgeon, Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska, and Dr. Jeffrey Delaney, Cardiologist at that same facility.

But it’s a crowded operating room, as it takes many hands to pull this kind of surgery off.  Joe Deptula arrived from Omaha to run the all important heart/lung machine that pinch hit for the heart that was stopped to be patched. And that’s literally what Dr. Hammel did: he stopped the heart so he could work on it, and Joe Deptula jumped in with his heart/lung gizmo. The rest of the team is equally important, providing skilled nursing care in the intensive care unit. Some of these people rotate in and out, most not staying the full time. All of them volunteer their time, taking their accumulated vacation days.

The aim of this entire program is not just to save these kids, but to establish a pediatric cardio care unit in the Salvatierra hospital. Right now when they’re in town those two times a year, they’re using the maternity ward. Each time they arrive, they have more equipment packed in their suitcases, most of which they leave here, and they buy even more equipment as budget allows. 

So next time you have a chance to contribute to Los Cabos Children’s Foundation, pony up. They have various fundraisers throughout the year, which we always announce in our calendar section, an they’re always fun. Or, don’t wait. Go to www.loscaboschildren.org to learn more about this organization or to donate right there online.   ,