Giving Back to His Home Country

McLaren Health Care, McLaren Northern Michigan
The Rwanda genocide of nearly 800,000 Tutsi is a sad history of a beautiful country. The genocide left many doctors dead and hospitals and clinics in shambles. Today, Rwanda is pushing forward and has established hospitals and health care that can serve the country, however, they still need assistance.

To help, Vianney Ruhumuliza, Rwanda native and nurse at McLaren Northern Michigan, and his wife Cairn Ruhumuliza, RN, MS, Sepsis/Special Projects Coordinator at McLaren Northern Michigan have started Helping Hands for Rwanda.

The need for cardiac care was apparent in May of 2012 when the Ruhumuliza’s were working in Rwanda. Cairn started having chest pains and went to the emergency department of one of the best hospitals in Rwanda. Being medical professionals, they knew the care didn’t meet standard cardiac assessment capabilities. They made arrangements to return to the United States after nitrite medications were given and she was discharged. When they returned home to America, it was found she needed a heart catheterization.

Now, Vianney wants to help others from his native country. “I want to make sure that Rwanda has the best health care possible, so I am enlisting the best cardiologists I know and they are here at McLaren Northern Michigan,” stated Vianney.

Dr. Miranda training Rwanda physiciansIn April of 2018, Vianney traveled with cardiologist, Dalton Miranda, MD, and Echocardiogram Technician, Mary Warren, both of McLaren Northern Michigan, on a mission for heart health. “We saw all types of patients, from congress members to judges to farmers. With many of the jobs in Rwanda are stressful, due to physical labor or long hours, and can cause hypertension, or high blood pressure,” stated Vianney. “Our team goes to the hospitals and, alongside Rwanda physician residents, we provide screenings and education on high blood pressure medications and how to treat it. By simply training resident physicians on treating hypertension, cardiac episodes have decreased.” And thanks to technology, Dr. Miranda and Vianney are able to keep in contact with some of those patients from the states.

In a single week in April, the group saw 123 patients, and of that 73 needed medical or lifestyle intervention.

The next mission trip is scheduled for October of 2018. McLaren Northern Michigan cardiologists Gerald Gadowski, DO, and Harry Colfer, MD, their nurse wives Sharon Gadowski and Dawn Colfer, and echo technician Christine Johnson-Ferguson will visit a military hospital in Rwanda. The goal is to expand the reach to more physicians and Rwandans about the importance of treating hypertension, and also to provide the education and lifestyle intervention that they need to continue to lead a healthy life.

“In America, we take for granted that our grocery stores have a free blood pressure machine, or that we have a hospital within driving distance of our homes,” stated Vianney. “This is not the case in Rwanda, so we want to make sure they have the tools to treat the patients when they seek help. And, also provide the education to Rwandans to know when they need medical care.”

rwanda mission teamThe Helping Hands from northern Michigan doesn’t stop at those traveling to Rwanda. Anton Sharapov, MD, general surgeon on medical staff at McLaren Northern Michigan, purchased and donated an EKG machine, something that is not common in Rwanda hospitals. For the October mission trip, Dr. Sharapov is covering the cost of the Echo Tech to travel to Rwanda. “We have amazing people who work at our hospital. People who use their own money to travel to help others in another country,” stated Vianney. “With our colleagues paying for their own travel, we are able to use the Helping Hands for Rwanda donor funds to put towards equipment and funding to build the only cardiac center in Rwanda.”

“Our colleagues, and McLaren Northern Michigan as a whole, have been so supportive of this mission,” said Vianney. “Whether it is finding coverage for staffing, or donating money or time, it is amazing to see others give to help others across the world.”

To learn more about the Helping Hands for Rwanda organization and the upcoming mission trip, visit mclaren.org/northernheart or HHFR.org.