Now, over a year ago, Soddo Christian Hospital started a sustainable prevention program for rheumatic heart disease. It involves school-based ultrasound screening for early detection of rheumatic heart disease. A group of 6, that grew to 8 nurses were trained on how to do the screening ultrasound. They are now proficient to go on their own to do the screening. After the children are screened, one of our Ethiopian specialists confirms the changes in the heart valves, and the child gets started on monthly penicillin injections. The injections prevent further strep throat, which then prevents the scaring on the heart valves.
This chronic cardiac problem not only causes a short life for the child but often the families pay a lot of money for medications, travel far to doctor appointments, and the other children may not get what they need. I can’t count the number of tears that I have cried over sick children destined to die of rheumatic heart disease before their time. Despite all the medications I can give, when I see them in the hospital, often irreversible damage is done and they need surgery that is not available in Ethiopia. It is really hard, especially because it can be prevented, and the effects reach far beyond that one child.
We have screened over 5,000 children at the schools around Soddo! This is an incredible accomplishment, and we are hoping for even more! The really neat thing is being able to encourage and teach these students about health, their own bodies, and the beautiful and wonderful way God made them.
While prevention is not as flashy as caring for complicated medically ill patients, PREVENTION is better than a cure!