In May 2018, Heart to Heart took our Going Global initiative down to Guatemala City, Guatemala. This trip came on the heels of our site assessment work in Paraguay in April and as part of a string of site assessments in Latin America.
Guatemala is considered the heart of the Mayan world. Located in Central America, it is bordered by El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras, and Belize, and is roughly the size of Pennsylvania. After more than 120 years under Spanish rule, Guatemala proclaimed its independence from Spain in 1821. Home to more than 17 million people, Spanish is predominantly spoken, but the nation also has nearly two dozen formally recognized Mayan languages. Our destination, Guatemala City, is the country’s capital and home to a population of three million. Heart to Heart’s goal was to learn about the cardiac landscape of this vibrant, historically rich country, and to consider how we could help to expand and advance heart care.
The Heart to Heart site assessment team (see photo below) traveled to the Unidad Cardiovascular de Guatemala (UNICAR) in Guatemala City to meet with Guatemalan cardiac thought leaders Raul Cruz Molina, MD, Director of UNICAR; Joaquin Barnoya, MD; and Gonzalo Calvimontes, MD as well as members of their pediatric team to discuss how we could collaborate to further develop cardiac care for the children of Guatemala and beyond.
UNICAR was the first organized surgical unit in Central America to treat children with congenital heart defects. Founded in 1997 by Dr. Aldo Castañeda–the “father of neonatal corrective surgery”–UNICAR’s pediatric unit is known throughout the region as the most established cardiac team operating on children of all ages.
More than 4,000 children are born with CHD each year in Guatemala. Despite UNICAR’s considerable accomplishments, they cannot meet the demand for treatment, resulting in a backlog of hundreds of children waiting for surgery. Heart to Heart is excited at the prospect of joining the UNICAR team to help expand their programmatic reach to save more children in Guatemala.
Please stay tuned for more Going Global updates! As Heart to Heart moves forward in Latin America, we will share with you how you can play a critically important role in saving the lives of thousands of children waiting for heart care.