For people living the United States, we often don’t realize how many opportunities we have for healthcare compared to the rest of the world. There are many countries around the world that don’t have access to nearly as many medical centers to treat conditions and diseases. Many medical professionals understand the situation of these countries, and go on mission trips to visit them and treat the local population who are afflicted with health conditions beyond their care.
Shaun Setty, M.D., medical director, Pediatric and Adult Congenital Cardiac Surgery, MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital, led a complete medical and surgical team under the auspices of the Sai Prema Foundation for a mission trip to Fiji to treat children with congenital heart disease. The team included Sarah Bebee, CST, and Sandy Tolentino, RN, from MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s, as well as other medical professionals from around the United States, Oman, and Australia. This international team traveled to Fiji to perform surgeries at Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Children’s Heart Hospital for local families.
The team performed 30 surgeries in nine days. That’s about three to four surgeries a day. The youngest child that Dr. Setty and the team operated on was 7 weeks old, and the oldest was 13 years old. All the surgeries were completely free for the families.
“When there’s a purpose at hand, the team rallies towards it,” says Shaun Setty, M.D. “Even though the team was from all around the world, we knew that these kids didn’t have access to the services we were providing. It was a big motivating factor for us, and inspired us.”
Dr. Setty and Sandy were experienced in traveling for mission trips, having done several in the past. Sarah, however, did not have any prior experience, but did not feel intimated by the trip. The whole team, despite having different backgrounds in healthcare, were united with the mindset of helping these less fortunate families that otherwise would have to spend thousands of dollars getting their child treatment.
Towards the end of the trip, the team’s supplies were running low, so they had to brainstorm and think of ways to provide the same level of care for the last patients as they did the first. The team completed the last of the procedures by finding alternative ways to use the extra materials that they had available to them such as towels and tarps. This allowed them to maintain the same level of care they were providing in the first surgery. Although the team was exhausted from the multiple surgeries each day, they found their work very rewarding and were happy to provide care to a community that might not typically have access.
“This trip really made me appreciative of all the amenities and support that we have at Miller Children’s & Women’s and Long Beach Medical Center,” said Sarah Bebee, Cardiac Surgery Technician, Long Beach Medical Center. “This trip has also strengthened my relationship with Dr. Setty and Sandy, as well as helped my understanding of my job and what I provide for the patient.”