Atrium Health joined the Heineman Foundation of Charlotte and the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) for the first time in 2016 in hosting the Heart of Belize Outreach event, for cardiac screenings for rheumatic heart disease and other heart abnormalities.

Belize_Heart_Screen_BannerMore than 100 youth, ages 16-30, were screened and half were found at risk for having the disease. Rheumatic heart disease is a chronic condition caused by rheumatic fever that affects the heart valve.

If left untreated, it can lead to heart failure and death. Youth at risk received an EKG test or a cardiac echocardiography scan on-site, and all youth were encouraged to learn more about heart health at an education station. All screenings were free to participants.

“Rheumatic heart disease is one of the most common acquired heart disease in children in Belize,” said Dr. Adrian Coye, chief executive officer for the KHMH, Belize’s only public tertiary care hospital. “Through events like these, we strive to engage our Belizean communities to learn more about this disease and to catch it in its early stages. Early detection leads to early effective treatment, which can save more lives.”

Coye, also a practicing heart surgeon at the KHMH, performed the advanced heart screenings at the event alongside Theodore Frank, MD, director of Cardiac Transplantation at the Heart Failure Clinic at Atrium Health’s Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute. Eight nursing students from Carolinas College of Health Sciences, part of Atrium Health, also participated and helped with the initial screening of Belizean patients. The event was supported in part by Edwards Lifesciences Foundation’s Every Heart Beat Matters campaign.

The KHMH’s cardiac surgery and cardiology programs are fully-equipped to perform diagnostic and interventional services, including echocardiographs, catheterizations (caths) and open-heart surgeries. Since 2011, KHMH has performed more than 200 cardiac caths, 24 stents and 28 heart surgeries, including the first open heart surgery in the country.

These services have been possible through the donation of medical equipment by Atrium Health’s International Medical Outreach (IMO) program, a collaboration with the Heineman Foundation. The program also coordinates monthly travel of medical teams from Sanger, in Charlotte, to the KHMH to train and assist Belizean teams in performing caths and heart surgeries.

“The outcomes and services of the cardiac care program at the KHMH are a living testimony to the level of professionalism and dedication of its medical staff and leadership,” said Francis Robicsek, MD, PhD, vice president of the IMO Program. “For more than 50 years, our international medical outreach efforts have helped enhance the health of patients globally, and the efforts of the staff at the KHMH are truly exceptional.”