Tertiary level care in Belize has become available only over the past years, and only to a limited extent. Open-heart surgery, especially pediatric open-heart surgery is one of such care that has not yet become available, and even if it was, the larger portion of the population of Belize would not be able to afford such a surgery.
“Gift of Life Belize” is a program that works with its partners to identify patients, doctors, and the facilities that are willing to accept these cases at a nominal fee, and is sheltered under the umbrella of the International Rotary Club.
Dr. Genevieve Lee-Dickson, eco-cardiographer is visiting from Orlando Florida. She is part of a group of specialists working with the Gift of Life Program in Belize, providing a full service Cardiac Clinic at the Karl Heushner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) on Tuesday August 18th, and Wednesday August 19th for a half day or until the last patient is seen. The team includes a physician, pediatric cardiologist from Tampa, nurse practitioner from Tampa and a group from the Rotary Club along with other local volunteers. In the states, Dr. Lee-Dickson works in pediatrics for adults or featuses with congenital heart defects. She came to Belize for the first time about five years ago as an Ecotech, with a group that did medical volunteer work here in the country.
As part of the team, Dr. Lee-Dickson is responsible for performing eco-cardiograms (Ultrasound of the Heart) on patients. She looks at the heart, blow flow – direction and speed, defects that children may be born with. Through the tests, the group of specialist is able to identify conditions such as Rheumatic Fever which she mentions, is a little prevalent here in Belize, heart defects and or children with an acquired heart defect.
This group of specialists visit the country every August, a second group visits in February of every year to hold the clinic. Last year, during their clinic, 70 patients were seen, Dr. Lee-Dickson performed echocardiograms on 40 patients and identified 12 patients that needed surgery. Through the efforts of the Rotary Club, all 12 patients received surgeries and are presently doing well.
The Rotary Club of Belize, under the Gift of Life program facilitate the surgery, travel - including passports, visas and airfare and ensure that their partners have established boarding and lodging for each of the young patients and the accompanying parent or guardian once patient is identified and a hospital has accepted the case. Presently they are working with hospitals in the United States as well as the Surgical Center in Guatemala for these surgeries.
This year Dr. Lee-Dickson and her family decided to come a week early and visited San Pedro where they stayed at the White Sands Resort and enjoyed the warm service of the staff there, did some site seeing and snorkeling along our lush Barrier Reef. She commented that her “love for Belize and the kindness of the people in Belize”- keeps her coming back.