Earlier this month, the Jamaican Foundation for Cardiac Disease honored two University Hospital of Brooklyn employees for "selfless service far beyond the call of duty."
Intensive Care Unit nurse Donareen Denny and heart surgeon John Anderson lead a team of University Hospital employees who have been visiting Jamaica to perform open-heart surgery on children.
The voluntary service began two years ago when Ms. Denny, on a visit to her native Jamaica, met a member of the foundation and was told of the severe shortage of acute care nurses to help patients after heart surgery.
Touched by the pleas for help, she and three University Hospital of Brooklyn nurses began regularly traveling to Jamaica to help. Last year, they enlisted Dr. Anderson's help.
With only two heart surgeons serving the entire island's population of 2.5 million residents, adults and children needing surgery must often wait months for their procedure. There are 125 Jamaican children, alone, waiting to have open-heart surgery.
Jennifer Chalmers, president and founder of Leaf of Life, an organization that helps sponsor University Hospital of Brooklyn's team, hails the voluntary spirit.
"They are doing a fantastic job, and allowing us to make the best use of our limited resources," she says. "To have a child airlifted to Florida for open-heart surgery would cost about $40,000. Not only are we saving money, we can offer children the security of having the surgery done in their own country, where their family and friends can visit them."