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HEALING WOUNDED HEARTS
HEALING WOUNDED HEARTS
Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) is the most common birth defect and one of the leading causes of death in the first year of life. Annual estimates show that nearly 700 newborns and children in Lebanon are diagnosed with heart disease. More than two thirds of them necessitate treatment, which, if unavailable, will not allow children to survive past their first birthday. Nevertheless, upon providing appropriate care, almost 97% of cases will be cured, and these children can lead normal lives.

Devoted to delivering state-of-the-art medical therapeutic techniques for young patients with congenital and acquired structural heart disease, the Children’s Heart Center (CHC), established twenty years ago at the American University of Beirut Medical Center, has grown to become a leading healthcare center in Lebanon, the region, and far beyond.

Dr. Fadi Bitar, the Founder and Director of the CHC, co-Director of the Congenital Heart Disease Genetics Program, Associate Dean for External Medical Affairs, and Professor of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, explained that AUBMC has always fostered centers of excellence that are patient-oriented to provide patients with the best medical care.

The CHC delivers a continuum of medical services to diagnose as well as treat congenital and acquired heart diseases in children, through the application of sophisticated invasive and non-invasive cardiac procedures. A multi-disciplinary team of more than fifty physicians, nurses and professional healthcare providers is dedicated to provide the best care and the best outcome for patients. As Dr. Bitar said, “The best results come when you build a system.” Indeed, the CHC team encompasses a kaleidoscope of healthcare providers from various specialties in the field of pediatric cardiology, who deliver the finest medical programs ranging from diagnostic techniques to interventional therapies and cardiac surgery.

Since its establishment, the CHC has aimed to become not only a local but also an international hub that delivers a preeminent level of healthcare. Indeed, much has been accomplished throughout the years. The CHC team has introduced new modalities and techniques for treatment of heart disease, including procedures that had never been performed elsewhere in the world. Additionally, the CHC reported discoveries of novel genes related to CHD. Dr. Bitar emphasizes that “the outcome measures of CHC are comparable to the best in the world.”

In November 2003, the Brave Heart Fund (BHF), a benevolent funding enterprise, was established by volunteers and eager and enthusiastic professionals, including Dr. Bitar himself. The fund was meant to cover the charges of treatment of disadvantaged children suffering from CHD irrespective of their gender, religion, or ethnicity. Ever since, the Fund has constantly been striving to increase awareness about children’s cardiac diseases and encourage early screening in order to prevent unnecessary suffering. Dr. Bitar asserted that “since its creation, the BHF has rescued more than 2500 lives.” Around 350 procedures and surgeries are covered by the BHF every year, thus fulfilling its motto: “No child should die from heart disease because of a lack of funds.”

With the exponential rise in the number of admitted patients, the support of the Lebanese society in general and the AUB community specifically becomes fundamental to the survival of children with heart disease. “We would love to have more volunteers from the students in the future.” says Dr. Bitar. Ultimately, unconditional help makes miraculous differences: it can heal wounded hearts.

by Samer El Hayek, Med III & Ghina Fahkri, Med III

Source: AUBMC Radioactive Newsletter, Volume 2. Issue no. 2 - August, 2015