Throughout a week in January, 10 young Jamaicans underwent lifesaving heart valve replacement surgery at no cost to them, thanks to a team of volunteers from Montefiore Einstein.
The Cardiac Mission Trip to Jamaica by the “One Heart, One Love, Team,” inspired by Jamaican music icon Bob Marley, now in its third year, is the brainchild of Heather Tucker, RN, Patient Care Coordinator for Cardiothoracic Surgery, Moses Division Operating Room, Montefiore Einstein, who decided to take action after visiting family in 2018 and learning that Jamaica has a large population of young people suffering from treatable rheumatic heart disease and who are unable to afford the $22,000 cost of heart valve replacement surgery. Only about 5% of Jamaicans have health insurance, leaving most unable to pay for critical healthcare.
Back in 2018, together with Daniel Goldstein, MD, Professor and Vice Chairman of the Department of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, Montefiore Einstein, Tucker rallied 16 of her Montefiore Einstein colleagues, including heart surgeons, anesthesiologists, ICU nurses, critical care specialists and perfusionists, to make the first mission trip to Jamaica to perform the necessary heart surgeries on patients who had lived with rheumatic heart disease most of their lives. All the Montefiore Einstein staff gave up their vacation time and covered their own costs of travel, hotel and food. To defray some of the costs, Dr. Goldstein and Ms. Tucker started social media and GoFundMe campaigns. Additionally, they worked closely with industry partners and others to obtain critical heart valve supplies, cardiopulmonary bypass packs, medications and other supplies essential for the mission. Beyond the care provided, the mission has an educational imperative helping to train local surgical, medical and nursing staff on the care of these patients.