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OUR MISSION

The mission of Project Health for León is to promote the improvement of medical care for the people of Nicaragua through education of health professionals, the acquisition of appropriate medical technology, and, when necessary, by direct patient consultation and medical and surgical care, both in Nicaragua and in the United States.

OUR STORY

Project Health for León is a group of health care providers whose principal goal is to improve the quality of medical care provided to the poor of Nicaragua through education of doctors and nurses, the provision of appropriate medical technology and resources, and direct patient consultation and care, where such is not available currently in Nicaragua.

Project Health for León had its beginning in January, 1985, when Dr. John Paar, a Raleigh, North Carolina, Cardiologist, first visited the Hospital Escuela Oscar Danilo Rosales A. in León, Nicaragua, to give lectures in cardiology, following an invitation by Dr. Gustavo Sequeira of  León.

Dr. Paar had first visited Nicaragua in 1984 with Witness for Peace and became acquainted with the desperate state of health affairs in that country.  Following the 1985 visit many health professionals from various disciplines came to León to present conferences and see patients. In addition, some Nicaraguan patients were brought to Raleigh, North Carolina for specialty care

Since that time many U.S. physicians and surgeons, nurses, and technicians have participated in Project Health for León missions in various fields of medicine, including initially in general and specialty surgeons, orthopedists, pediatricians, and others. The orthopedists formed an autonomous group, COAN, which continues to be active, not only in León but in other areas of Nicaragua, and general surgeons have also recently formed a separate group. Project Health for León now is mainly concerned with cardiovascular disease and with bidirectional medical education, meaning that we educate learners from the U.S., as well as Nicaraguan health professionals and students in both countries.

Dr. John Paar

OUR PATIENTS

Project Health for León was started in part to improve the standard of living for Nicaraguans suffering from illnesses such as  rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever is the result of untreated strep throat and is common in the Central American nation. Antibodies that try to kill the invading bacteria that causes the fever also attack similar proteins found in heart valves.

For example, Ruth Garcia Gardado (one of the patients pictured below) suffered from rheumatic fever and  could not afford the expensive valve-replacement surgery. Project Health for Leon was able to provide the surgery.

Newsletter

2019 ANNUAL PROJECT HEALTH FOR LEON NEWSLETTER

November 18, 2019

Dear PHL Friends,

The year 2019 has been a busy and productive year for PHL.  We have been able to resume our work in Nicaragua.  In April a Nicaraguan patient with a critical cardiac condition underwent successful surgery at ECU and Vidant Health in Greenville, NC.  We are grateful for the care donated by the cardiac surgery team, the hospital, and the University.  In May a small general cardiology brigade evaluated a number of patients at HEODRA, the hospital in Leon where we serve.  There was strong support by hospital leadership.

In July our electrophysiology team participated in a busy brigade dealing with patients who have cardiac rhythm problems.  Team members included 14 Americans and 4 Nicaraguans working together for a very productive week.  A total of 96 patients were evaluated in the clinic, including 36 new patients.  Procedures were performed on 9 patients to implant or revise pacemakers or implantable defibrillators (both are surgically placed devices used to treat serious rhythm problems).  In addition, 5 electrophysiology studies were performed (these are catheter-based tests to diagnose and treat rhythm problems).  The team also provided clinical education for physicians and staff at HEODRA.  Again, hospital leadership was very helpful.

In September a general cardiology brigade worked at HEODRA.  The team of 18 Americans and several Nicaraguans worked together in the clinic.  Hospital leadership was very attentive and helpful.  We evaluated 149 patients, including performing an echocardiogram (cardiac ultrasound, a test used to diagnose cardiac problems) on each patient.  A number of these patients also underwent transesophageal echocardiography (cardiac ultrasound tests performed through the throat) for more detailed evaluation.  Almost every patient had serious cardiac disease, mostly valvular disease from rheumatic fever and adult congenital heart disease.  Many would benefit from cardiac surgery or percutaneous interventional procedures (correction of cardiac conditions done through the leg blood vessels). Some of these patients will be scheduled for these procedures during the next brigade.

We are planning a one-week brigade during late January 2020.  This will include cardiology clinic and performing percutaneous interventional procedures (15-18 cases).  We are not able to offer cardiac surgery during this brigade, but we are working to be able to offer surgery during our Fall 2020 brigade.  We are planning to resume taking a small group of American students.  A clinical lecture series is also planned.  In preparation for our continued work in Leon, we have shipped a large container of medical equipment and supplies to HEODRA.

Further plans for 2020 include another electrophysiology brigade in the summer and a general cardiology and cardiac surgical brigade in the fall.  We are hoping to resume our pediatric cardiology program.  Plans are being made to continue our primary care activities in Nicaragua, as well.

We have made several changes in PHL leadership.  Jack Rose and John Paar will each continue to be actively involved; each has earned the title President Emeritus.  Eric Van Tassel was elected as President, and Mike Yeung as Vice President.  We are fortunate to have a dedicated, active Board of Directors.  Please feel free to communicate with us.

Regarding PHL communication, please note the following:  Our mailing address has changed, as shown on the heading of this letter.  We will continue mailing a paper copy of our annual newsletter; our periodic updates will be sent by email.  If your email address has changed, or you have not previously sent us your email, please confirm your preferred email address to ericvmd8@gmail.com.  We will also post the newsletter and updates on our website: projecthealthforleon.org.

The overall goals of PHL remain the same: to provide specialty and general health care to the citizens of Nicaragua, to educate Nicaraguan and American medical professionals, and to provide needed medical supplies and medications to health care facilities in Nicaragua.  PHL receives no government funding.  Therefore, our work depends upon private donations.  Medical equipment, supplies, and shipping are very expensive.  For example, the shipping container we just sent to Nicaragua cost $14,500.  We recently purchased essential hemodynamic monitoring equipment costing $4000.   Most components of the cardiopulmonary bypass system (necessary for cardiac surgery) are near end of life and will need replacement soon.  It is estimated this will cost approximately $50,000.  Your financial contributions are needed in order that PHL can continue its mission of helping the people of Nicaragua.  Please consider making a contribution.  Checks should be made payable to PHL and mailed to the address found in the letterhead.  Contributions are tax-deductible.  If you are interested in volunteering for a brigade, please contact Eric at ericvmd8@gmail.com.  Thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely,

Eric Van Tassel, President
Jack Rose, President Emeritus
John Paar, President Emeritus

Recent Trips

“Please see the Annual Newsletter on this website.”

In July our electrophysiology team participated in a busy brigade dealing with patients who have cardiac rhythm problems.  Team members included 14 Americans and 4 Nicaraguans working together for a very productive week.  A total of 96 patients were evaluated in the clinic, including 36 new patients.  Procedures were performed on 9 patients to implant or revise pacemakers or implantable defibrillators (both are surgically placed devices used to treat serious rhythm problems).  In addition, 5 electrophysiology studies were performed (these are catheter-based tests to diagnose and treat rhythm problems).  The team also provided clinical education for physicians and staff at HEODRA.  Again, hospital leadership was very helpful.

In September a general cardiology brigade worked at HEODRA.  The team of 18 Americans and several Nicaraguans worked together in the clinic.  Hospital leadership was very attentive and helpful.  We evaluated 149 patients, including performing an echocardiogram (cardiac ultrasound, a test used to diagnose cardiac problems) on each patient.  A number of these patients also underwent transesophageal echocardiography (cardiac ultrasound tests performed through the throat) for more detailed evaluation.  Almost every patient had serious cardiac disease, mostly valvular disease from rheumatic fever and adult congenital heart disease.  Many would benefit from cardiac surgery or percutaneous interventional procedures (correction of cardiac conditions done through the leg blood vessels). Some of these patients will be scheduled for these procedures during the next brigade.

Future Trips

“Please see the Annual Newsletter on this website.”

We are planning a one-week brigade during late January 2020.  This will include cardiology clinic and performing percutaneous interventional procedures (15-18 cases).  We are not able to offer cardiac surgery during this brigade, but we are working to be able to offer surgery during our Fall 2020 brigade.  We are planning to resume taking a small group of American students.  A clinical lecture series is also planned.  In preparation for our continued work in Leon, we have shipped a large container of medical equipment and supplies to HEODRA.

Further plans for 2020 include another electrophysiology brigade in the summer and a general cardiology and cardiac surgical brigade in the fall.  We are hoping to resume our pediatric cardiology program.  Plans are being made to continue our primary care activities in Nicaragua, as well.