Thousands of children die every year due to congenital heart disease that cannot be treated in their countries of origin. To alleviate this situation, in 1996 Chain of Hope was born, an international network of centres and professional medical professionals that aims to provide treatment and life expectancy to these children. Children like Alejandra, who has been operated on at SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital.
This 11-year-old girl arrived at the hospital from El Salvador in the spring. She has had congenital heart disease from birth, for which she had been operated on twice in her country of origin, in the context of various missions of European doctors in the Caribbean country.
Lorena, Alejandra's mother, tells of how the little girl spent three days in cardiology care and observation after being born. "At 8 months they had to perform emergency surgery on her because she couldn’t breathe and was turning purple. And in 2015, a second operation scheduled in the framework of a European mission of cardiologists was carried out". According to her mother, a nurse in El Salvador, "In our country we don’t have the experts or technology to deal adequately with cases like my daughter’s".
Avoid running or active games has been a constant in the life of Alejandra, who has an affable and calm character. "I have a friend who always plays with me and understands that I can’t walk much or run", she explains. "But I would like to be able to".
In the spring of 2018, her tiredness began to intensify and the situation worsened. At that time her doctor explained that Alejandra needed an intervention for which the national hospitals had neither the economic nor the technical resources.
The viability of the case and the coordination with the original cardiologist are the pillars of this international collaboration
The girl's cardiologist contacted the non-governmental organization Chain of Hope, which includes hospitals throughout Europe and is based in the United Kingdom.
In these situations, it is analyzed that the case is viable, that it can be resolved with surgery and that the follow-up in the country of origin can be carried out. In this case the NGO sent the information so that the Heart Area of SJD Barcelona Childre'ns Hospital could assess if it could be treated, and the scientific and social committee of Chain of Hope decided in favor of its viability, approving the treatment.
A year of collaboration with great results
During the first year since the signing of the collaboration agreement between the Hospital Sant Joan de Deu Barcelona and Chain of Hope, 10 patients with congenital heart disease such as Alejandra's, who require therapeutic catheterization or extracorporeal surgery, have been treated in the center.
The majority of children come from African, Central American or Caribbean countries, where they do not have the experience or facilities necessary for this type of case.
The whole Heart Department is involved in the treatment of these patients who, in cases like Alejandra's, have very good results: "It's the first time her face looks pinky", comments the patient’s mother, which states that they were about to throw in the towel and resign themselves to the child having to live with the disease.
In addition to providing medical assistance, Sant Joan de Déu Hospital, Barcelona is in charge of facilitating the stay in Barcelona of the patients and their families for the duration of the treatment and the periods of hospitalisation and recovery before returning home, providing logistical and emotional support at all times.
After the intervention it took two weeks of monitoring to verify Alejandra’s recovery. She has already been able to return to El Salvador, where she hopes to practice some sport as soon as the doctors allow it.