We’re Making History—Three “Firsts” In One Week!

This has been an amazing week! It was so exciting to be a part of Remedy Mission X. It feels like I hear about new firsts every day:

We’re the first American team to come to Fallujah General Hospital since the war.

This is the first cardiac catheterization lab built in the hospital’s history.

This week was the first time the lab is used.

But most exciting of all: this is PLC’s first Remedy Mission in Fallujah.

It’s been a week of history in the making! Some of the most exciting firsts involved the groundbreaking catheterization procedures (‘caths’). We treated 12 children over the week and the first three days gave us a chance to break the cath lab in.

Sweet little Balkis about to get his operation at Fallujah General Hospital.

On the first day of the mission, we performed the FIRST diagnostic cath on 2 year-old Balkis. He has two holes in his heart, known as ventricular septal defects (VSDs). The doctors knew he had these holes because of an ECHO screening done by a local Iraqi cardiologist and verified by Dr. Kirk on our first day in Fallujah. To fix them, Balkis will need surgery. But the surgeons have to know lots of detailed information about the hole and the status of his heart and lungs. The diagnostic cath provided that information.

Balkis can now safely have surgery at any hospital because his parents can take the cath report to any heart surgeon and they’ll know exactly what they need to know! 

A photo of a little girl named Sara, the first to have her heart fixed in the history of Anbar Province!

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The second day we performed the FIRST PDA closure in 13 year-old Sara. A PDA (patent ductus arteriosus) is an abnormal connection between the two biggest vessels coming off the heart. However, a simple coil placed in the PDA acts as a plug that closes the connection.

It’s incredible that such a tiny piece of metal could have INSTANT results in changing the blood flow in Sara’s heart. Before her cath, I could literally feel the vibrations of blood flowing abnormally. But immediately afterwards, her heart felt normal! Amazing! She is the first of many more children to be cured by caths in Fallujah General Hospital!  

A photo of 5 year-old Rawan on the scale before she heads into the operating room.

The third day, we performed the FIRST heart valve widening on 5-year-old Rawan. Her pulmonary valve was too small for blood to flow smoothly which could have led to heart failure. However, Rawan was treated by a cath that used a balloon to physically stretch out the valve. Now the blood can flow normally, and Rawan can be active and play without her heart getting tired out!

All of these “firsts” were exciting for the local Iraqi medical staff, local and international news agencies, and government officials. But despite the thrill of being a part of a “first”, the greatest impact of the new cath lab won’t be seen for years to come, after countless more children undergo procedures at Fallujah General.

Each child who received a cath had their lives changed forever, especially those who received interventional procedures. To them, it didn’t matter whether they were the first or the last, it just mattered that they were able to be treated.

We have the amazing opportunity to change the course of history here in Fallujah and it’s thanks to your support—thank you for making this trip possible! We helped 12 children and spread goodwill through their families on your behalf, and we can’t wait to come back!