Gol NEO Update

Gift of Life North East Ohio had been serving children with congenital heart defects one child at a time at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital since 2002.

It was great for that one child and family, but was not a sustainable model on its own. We set out to change our approach. Our goal is to establish Developing World Children’s Heart Surgery Centers located in regions of need, with a local teaching hospital nearby. We want to use the medical training team approach, combined with other partners to set up, equip, teach, and train local centers to function on their own.

We have also partnered with MedWish International , a creation of Dr. Lee Ponsky of University Hospitals of Cleveland. MedWish recycles surplus hospital equipment and supplies for re-use in the developing world at nominal cost, avoiding Ohio’s surplus from being sent to landfills. 

We have also partnered with International Children’s Heart Foundation, a creation of Dr. William Novick of Memphis Tennessee.  ICHF is dedicated to teaching and training pediatric cardiothoracic surgical teams in developing regions of the world while performing lifesaving surgeries via a multiple visit medical brigade model and. 

We have also partnered with Assiut University, a large urban campus with 7 teaching hospitals located in the heart of Egypt. To us, it is the “Ohio State of Egypt”. The President of Assiut and the Director of the School of Medicine have personally committed to make this partnership work and to support in-country expenses as an equal partner.

Gift of Life NEO and Dr. Ahmed worked with MedWish International to gather equipment over a 2 year period. Dr. Ahmed worked with his home university, to remodel part of their children’s hospital as a PICU/surgical suite. GoL NEO supported shipping of an entire surgical suite of equipment to Egypt (valued at $800k+). In late 2009 the dedication of this new children’s heart surgery suite occurred, and Gift of Life North East Ohio was presented with Assiut University’s Coat of Arms in recognition of our contributions to the children of Egypt.

The Assiut team conducted their first basic surgery in January 2010. Dr. Novick and the International Children’s Heart Foundation’s first medical training trip consisted of 17 specialists originating from multiple countries between Lahor, Pakistan and Vancouver, Canada.

This first brigade provided successful open heart surgeries for 14 children and started the teaching process at all levels. The brigade was entirely funded by Gift of Life NEO and Assiut University. These cases could not have been previously served in Egypt. The equipment and the two team’s performance were excellent.

  Three training trips over a 2 year period to Assiut have generated incredible results. In January 2012 Dr. Ahmed Farouk returned to Cleveland and reported to us that Assiut University’s Children’s Heart Surgery Center had performed 294 open heart cases, 41 with Dr. Novick’s training teams and 253 by Egyptian Surgical Team on their own. In addition over 300 catheterization procedures were done. There are over 600 children and families in Egypt that consider “Gift of Life North East Ohio” to be a special part of their family.

Mortality ratios for the Egyptian team were under 3% and well within western standards for the complexities they were dealing with.

Dr. Farouk announced the University will open a second children’s heart surgery suite in 2012 and commit to establish permanent PICU and surgical nursing teams despite the impact of the Arab Spring on the country. They are moving forward.

Gift of Life NEO, Dr. Farouk, Dr. Bidawy and Med Wish assembled another round of equipment to support the second suite and expanded PICU requirements. All arrived late in Egypt late 2012 and the expanded services are in process.

There are many exciting possibilities in partnership with Gift of Life International’s “Our Hearts Are in …."  program.

Additional Developing World Children Heart Surgery Centers are being created in Central America (Honduras/Nicaragua), the Caribbean, and East Africa (Kenya/Uganda). Facilities in Uganda, El Salvador and most recently Jamaica, have been set up, but many people are looking beyond.

 2012 began a new GoLNEO relationship with Akron Children’s Hospital’s Global Initiative team and St. Damien’s Hospital in Haiti. Local medical teams have visited St. Damien’s, and have begun to assess skills and equipment that can be expanded through Gift of Life North East Ohio. 2013 saw Naiderson and Kimsy get their open heart surgeries here too. Both children have returned home and we are screening for 2 more this fall.

As a result of the success with these children, we have expanded opportunities in Haiti. 

Gift of Life International learned of our Akron Children’s and St Damien’s Hospital Haiti partnership. They invited us to join Gift of Life Manhattan, Partners in Health Boston and Chain of Hope Paris (La Chaine D'espoir Paris) in considering a center together in Haiti. Each of these nonprofits has provided in-country heart surgeries for children out of the small Lambere Clinic in Haiti or, have been bringing children into their home hospitals for service.  Together, through 2013, we have supported 16 children identified by St. Damien’s who’s hearts have been fixed by the incoming teams. The team continues to assess what immediate needs in training and equipment can be met to help accomplish our efforts towards a sustainable center at St. Damien’s in Haiti. Akron Children’s, Gift of Life NEO, and Rotary District 6630 are exploring Vocational Training teams from Haiti to come to Akron for 6 week training experiences to help further St. Damien’s mission.

 To continue this work we are seeking:

Corporate financial support, preferably from companies that are involved in children’s health and want to look to a program like ours to further a global philanthropic based marketing/name recognition program with the pediatric cardio thorax surgery teams associated with Gift of Life throughout the developing world.

 Medical equipment and supplies to upgrade the facilities we work within. Our goal is to leave a sustainable base for children to gain access to cardiac care at an ever increasing level of service and complexity.

Support in shipping equipment and as part of our global medical training teams that spend 10 to 14 days in our surgery centers three to five times a year. Teams have ranged in size from 6 to 17 people as needed and shipment of equipment has been as small as mailer envelopes of suture and gloves up to 40 foot containers.



Two boys, Kurtis, 16 months (shown here with Dr. Kempf), and Elie, 4, had corrective open heart surgeries last April.


We have a story to tell. Please contact Gift of Life North East Ohio to find out how you can help.