Hearts of East Africa
Brennan M. Williams, CPNP-DUAL
Pediatric Critical Care Nurse Practitioner
Children’s of Mississippi
Children’s of Mississippi is home to an outstanding cardiac program that treats the most complicated of heart diseases. Being formally trained for over five years as a bedside critical care nurse, charge nurse, and now with two years as an Advanced Practice Provider, the decision was effortless in deciding to spread cutting edge knowledge with the people of eastern Africa. Hearts of East Africa was founded in 2012 with the mission of providing world-class modernized healthcare to children and young adults with heart disease in East Africa. I have been a member of the elite group since 2017 and have participated in over 30 operations in two short years.
Global integration of pediatric cardiac management is a rare and complicated endeavor as it requires a seamless multi-level system to function. The teams at Children’s of Mississippi and Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt have built a truly heart-changing program that delivers innovative modalities to a rural environment with limited resources. The multidisciplinary team provides education in formal settings as Tenwek houses a medical school and nursing school, as well as direct bedside integration to ensure delivery of the most advanced care to each patient. I really enjoy the unique challenges that international medicine brings. Tenwek brings clinical challenges, but also those outside the realm of medicine. My first year in Africa, around midnight on one of the last nights, the central building of the hospital caught fire and sent the entire campus into a panic. With hardly enough resources to deliver standard care to patients, we were faced with a massive four-story building engulfed in rolling flames with patients inside. We had a case still in the OR with a shifting focus on rescue and stability of those in imminent danger. Cases continued, challenges were overcome and kids’ lives were saved.
Year two brought similar challenges with difficult cases requiring tailored education to staff to handle pre-operative, intra-operative and post-operative patients. Returning year-after-year to the same Kenyan nurses and staff is truly a blessing as they are eager to continue to learn how to care for these specialized patients. After eight years of this program, the nurses and staff have grown into competent bedside providers for these children and truly love the season of surgeries that we bring. They take pride in learning from us with hopes to establish their own cardiac program in the future with a Tenwek-based surgeon.
I am proud to be established in an institution such as Children’s of Mississippi that supports and encourages the spread of home-based knowledge around the world. We learn and practice life-saving skills that are integral to international medicine. Although resources are extremely limited in these developing countries, it is, without a doubt, a privilege to share the limitless ability of Children’s of Mississippi.