Scenes From the Field: Panama MegaAHA


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Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) mannequins and equipment are set up for American Heart Association (AHA) basic life support course instruction during Operation Smile’s “Mega AHA” training sessions in Panama City. The weeklong program, conducted Feb. 26 through March 5, 2018, provided life support training to 73 Operation Smile medical volunteers from 11 countries across Latin America, including: Bolivia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Peru. From that total, 38 basic life support (BLS) certificates were rewarded, as were 70 pediatric advanced life support (PALS) cards. Thirteen volunteers became certified to instruct BLS courses, and 11 more earned credentials to teach PALS. Photo: Vania Tally.

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“Training BLS and PALS instructors allows them to take their knowledge back to other health providers in their countries who perhaps do not have the opportunity to participate in the course,” said Antonio Correa of Puerto Rico, an AHA instructor who trains BLS and PALS instructors. “With BLS and PALS, the cases of breath or cardiac arrest are very low on Operation Smile medical programs thanks to these courses, which are absolutely necessary for the highest levels of patient safety.” Photo: Vania Tally.
 
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Operation Smile medical volunteers from across Latin America practice BLS. Photo: Vania Tally.


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AHA instructor and Operation Smile clinical coordinator Homaire Caicedo of Ecuador, right, supervises Panamanian nurse Isis Campos during a BLS training session. Photo: Vania Tally.
 
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Operation Smile Mexico program coordinators Mauricio Rojas, right, and Bryan Mejia, center, practice delivering chest compressions to mannequins of infants during BLS training. Photo: Vania Tally.
 
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“Having BLS and PALS training is necessary when working with patients who have no pre-existing conditions, as you need to be prepared for anything,” said Homaire Caicedo, AHA instructor and Operation Smile clinical coordinator from Ecuador. “When a person doesn’t know how to manage a complicated situation or emergency, instead of solving the problem, they can end up making it worse.” Homaire added that she’s passionate about training fellow Operation Smile medical volunteers and serving as clinical coordinator: “Operation Smile volunteers are always open and willing to learn. It does not matter who teaches the course, they are always ready. And these means they will be ready to help whenever the need arises… I was born in Operation Smile – it’s like my mother. Fifteen years ago I started volunteering as a nurse. I grew up and have been shaped by Operation Smile. If I were to be born again, I would still be born as a volunteer with Operation Smile.” Photo: Vania Tally.
 
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Paraguayan nurses Nilse, left, Fabiola and Luis practice saving a choking infant during a BLS course. Photo: Vania Tally.
 
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AHA instructor and anesthesiologist Dr. Raul Fierro Ramirez, right, supervises a Panamanian nurse practicing infant intubation during a PALS course. Photo: Vania Tally.
 
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Nurses and anesthesiologists from Panama, Colombia and Bolivia listen to a case scenario presented by Paraguayan pediatrician Dr. Gustavo Zaracho, bottom right, during a PALS course. The trainees respond with follow up questions to gauge the patient's circumstances and respond with the appropriate course of action. Photo: Vania Tally.
 
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Longtime Operation Smile Colombia volunteer anesthesiologists Drs. Polidoro Saavedra, left, and Leonor Vargas de Ortega shared their insights on the importance of Operation Smile AHA training courses. 
“This training is very necessary to be able to update our knowledge of how to manage emergencies in our operating rooms. Also, these courses give us the opportunity to interact with colleagues from other countries, and they provide us with motivation to continue serving as Operation Smile volunteers,” said Polidoro, a 20-year Operation Smile volunteer.
“In our everyday practice, we do not frequently have the opportunity to practice these methodologies. For this reason, we forget many details and this course refreshes our knowledge and brings us up to date. Additionally, we have the chance to share with many people that feel the same and are carrying out their service as volunteers,” said Leonor, who has served for 25 years as an Operation Smile volunteer. Photo: Vania Tally.
 
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The instructors of the Panama MegaAHA meet with leaders of the Operation Smile’s medical oversight team: Chief Medical Officer Ruben Ayala (front left), Director of Nursing Practice Ann Campbell (back, third from left) and Associate Chief Medical Officer Geir Stangeland. Photo: Vania Tally.
 
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Panama MegaAHA participants and Operation Smile staff pause for a photo with Maria Berberian, Operation Smile Panama’s executive director (left), and Arlene Arias, Operation Smile’s regional director for Latin American and the Caribbean (right). Photo courtesy of Vania Tally.
 
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Newly-credentialed AHA instructors, who just taught their first BLS course, pose for a photo with their trainees. This was the first course that these new instructors taught in order to receive the certification they need to teach in their own countries. Photo courtesy of Vania Tally.
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AHA instructors, trainees and Operation Smile staff pose for one last photo on the final day of Panama MegaAHA. Photo courtesy of Vania Tally.

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“Every child that has a facial deformity is our responsibility. If we don’t take care of that child, there’s no guarantee that anyone else will.”

- Kathy Magee, Operation Smile Co-founder