Saving Lives, Sans Surgery—Why Diagnostics Are So Important

A photo of a little girl discovering she was misdiagnosed and didn't need surgery.

The girl in this picture was misdiagnosed as a baby.

Her family thought she needed surgery. They waited and worked, wondering if their daughter’s heart would give out.

As she gazed at the image of her heart beating, her father shared how hopeful they were that their daughter would get well.

Minutes later, he got his wish. After years of carrying around the wrong diagnosis, his little girl had a healthy, defect-free heart all along.

We’ve introduced you to a lot of sick, blue children over the past five years, but we haven’t always shared stories of already-healthy children. Thanks to highly trained cardiologists like Dr. Kirk, Iraqi children are receiving top-notch diagnostics testing in the form of preliminary echos, TEEs, and diagnostic catheterizations.

“We don’t do as many diagnostic caths in the US as we used to because we catch most heart disease early, before we have concerns about operability. Internationally, the situation is much different,” Dr. Kirk explained.

Over a span of several years, Dr. Kirk has screened hundreds of children across Iraq, and they’re often well beyond the ideal age for diagnosing a heart problem.

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“Many of the children we see are being diagnosed or considered for surgery at a time which is much later than what we see in the west. The diagnostic cath tells us if a child is appropriate for a surgery or if a child would probably live longer if we didn’t do anything. There are many children who we think are inoperable because of their age, but we take them to cath and find they are indeed a good candidate for surgical repair. In this case we’ve probably added years to their lives by getting them repaired.”

In short, good diagnostics inform decisions, illuminate the situation for doctors and in-the-dark family members, and they save lives.

“The diagnostic cath isn’t as exciting as an interventional procedure to most, because, even if the news is favorable for surgery, another procedure is still needed.

If we can get away from focusing on what’s done today and look at what was learned today and what is best for the child, we realize we positively change the lives of children with a diagnostic cath.

“Diagnostic caths either allow children to be repaired safely, or they prevent them from being harmed by surgery.”

A photo of a little Iraqi girl in need of surgery, holding her daddy's hand. Diagnostics take dollars—help us make it happen by donating below!

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