“I told them that if we did not employ a form of ECMO in the next few minutes the child would die.”
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As well, two members from our open-heart our team- surgical first assistants / operating room technologists, Lacey Todd and Alfredo Lomelli, traveled from Lubbock, Texas- to Ecuador and the Dominican Republic to do volunteer mission work with Dr. Novick and his team.
It is the enthusiasm from the richness and details of their experiences that prompted me to reach out on Facebook to ask Dr. Novick for an interview.
The Life of Dr. No
Click Images to Enlarge
To volunteer or make an inquiry please email Brian C. Forsberg MPH CCP.
Talking With …
Hello Dr. Novick,
I want to thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview for CircuitSurfers.com.
If you have a brief bio prepared, would you mind copying and pasting it in? If not I can get the details online to help with the intro portion of the interview.
So let’s begin:
“Frank- answers below in your text, write to Bryan or Aspen for bio on me. I am in Amsterdam headed to Memphis but only there for an hour going to NOLA to catch cruise ship for next week and will be out of touch.”
What prompted you to engage in international pediatric mission work, as a pediatric heart surgeon? Was it an epiphany of sorts after years in private practice, or just a long time goal / calling?
“No the idea started in Cardiac Residency at Univer of Alabama, we did kids from all over the world and one girl from Nigeria had a huge affect on me.”
Is your motivation for this type of service based on a particular religious belief / foundation, or a selfless effort to to improve the lives of others?
“We should help those less fortunate than ourselves, we live in the greatest country on earth to date, why should we only bomb people, we need to help educate them, to help provide non-existent health care so they can help themselves in the future.”
With so many to help, and such few resources, what factors influence your decision to establish a mission foundation in one country / region versus another?
“We look at several things, but first and foremost we look at where we can have the greatest impact, now and in the future through our training and education programs. Second , where can we find funding to carry out the program, and third what is the local infrastructure both human resources and building/equipment.”
Following up on the previous question- what areas would you like to extend your efforts to? What represents the greatest barriers to opening a new market so to speak- and what geographical areas are they in?
“Funding is the greatest barrier followed closely by personnel limitations, not enough volunteers in all specialties.”
Getting more specific towards the perfusion audience, where do you get your volunteer perfusionists from? Are they based on personal recommendations (how are they vetted) and is a pediatric background absolutely necessary?
“They come from all over, Europe, Canada, US and South America. Pediatric perfusion is a plus and a preference for us as we do all cases from ASD’s to Stage 1 Norwoods. There are circumstances when we would take a non-peds perfusionist, but they are rare.”
Describe the process- once you have identified and secured a new perfusionist to work with your group. While the work is clearly volunteer based, what does your organization do to help the process?
“We have a perfusionist who is the volunteer coordinator and he speaks with them or emails them about the site, needs, expectations and cases if we have a patient list. Also, they are contacted by our Program assistant who gets passport information, organizes flight and hotel accommodations, and finally they are contacted by our OR Director, she has worked with us for 13 years and any questions they may have left at this point are answered by her.”
What are the biggest barriers to securing new perfusion volunteers?
“The sheer number we need. This year we have the equivalent of 67 two week trips, so we need 67 volunteers!”
In terms of national origin, Is there one country that you can identify as being the primary source for your pool of perfusion volunteers. If so- how can you expand your volunteer base to include perfusionists from other parts of the world?
“The US is our number 1 pool, we have them from all over the world however. I think social media, web page and articles in Perfusion journals are our best bet to expand our reach, along with good old word of mouth.”
I have looked at your FB profile and see so many pictures of the uncountable number of children that you have helped or who’s lives you have saved. Is there one particular patient that strikes a chord in your memory? Someone or perhaps the circumstances you had to overcome- that just sticks out in your heart and memory that just seemed extra special.
“Boy that is a tough question as there are extra special patients all over the world, the first arterial switch ever performed in Iraq, the first Fontan every performed in Croatia, the first Ross operation performed in Peru, the first Rastelli ever performed in Kazahkstan, but perhaps it was a recent case, the first ECMO patient in Belarus who has gone home.
I was in Minsk in January, there to do 3 specific types of operations Ross or Ross/Konno, Ebstein’s complete repair and repair of complete AV Canal. Well while we were doing a Ross/Konno in one room the local team was doing a Down’s Syndrome AV canal next door. We got a call that the could not come off bypass, so I scrubbed out and went next door.
Bad situation the LV was shot, very poor function. We limped off on maximal meds, and sent the kid open chest to the ICU. We finished the Ross/Konno and were having a cup of tea in the Chief’s office when word came that the AV canal had arrested in the ICU. We hurried down, helped in the resus and got the child back, but really in poor hemodynamic shape. I told them that if we did not employ a form of ECMO in the next few minutes the child would die.
They had never done ECMO there! We got the pump into the ICU, not ECMO but the routine CBP pump and got the child on in less than 40 minutes after the arrest. 36 hours later the child was weaned, sternum closed the next day and extubated 2 days later and went home on post-op day 15! “
What’s the legacy?
What will be your legacy Dr. Novick- for the work you do and all that you have accomplished? This clearly isn’t about monetary reward and things so trivial, but there must be something- a vision that you have in the back of your mind- of what this all leads to?
“Yes, there is, an increase in the number of programs that can independently operate on their own kids, such that our programs provide 25-30,000 operations yearly, the programs we started or we helped.
Also we want to create our own centers of excellence, about 4-6 all over the world which will serve as additional training sites regionally.”
Thank you sir.
Please send the most extraordinary pictures you are willing to share- so that I may include them in the international perfusion art gallery.
Frank Aprile, BBA, LP, CCP
Epilogue: (And the work continues-as does LIFE…)
Author: FB- Unknown
“An amazing first for me.
Ben K. Moser and I were allowed to watch Pricile’s open heart surgery. Prayer are still in order, but she came through the operation great!