Cardiac training programs live or die by the initiative of the local doctors.
Ultimately, this is their program—an investment in them. As soon as they lose their passion to learn, coordinate, and hack through the red tape, the program is in trouble.
Perhaps that is why our time in Fallujah has been so encouraging. Dr. Firas (pronounced fee-rahs) is the only pediatric cardiologist in the Anbar region—Iraq's largest geographic region and home to a growing number of children with heart problems.
So, given his kindness and compassion for these children, we asked him if he would share a little about his life, his concerns, and his hopes for the future of Fallujah.
PLC: Thanks for taking a few minutes to share, doctor. So why did you decide to become a cardiologist?
Dr. Firas: You know, we're in Fallujah. There are many cases here; just so many children, but no specialists to treat them. I saw the high percentage of death; all the undiagnosed children; the great need. My first interest was to help my people here...to save their lives, the kids.
PLC: It seems like a lot of cardiologists here get into the field because of a family member who dealt with heart problems—was that your experience?
Dr. Firas: Yes, my father died from heart disease. It wasn't congenital, but it did help put me on a path toward becoming a heart doctor.
PLC: Now that you've completed two Remedy Missions with us and our partners, what do you think? Reactions?
Dr. Firas: The missions were so good—they mean a lot to us. This [heart] center is new, and a lot of people here don't even know that we have a cath lab and can treat their children. But these missions have brought us a reputation and the people are hearing about our work. It provides us with a good reputation and our people with hope.
PLC: That's encouraging. What do you hope for the heart center here? Any next steps?
Dr. Firas: I hope to someday see open heart surgery here. I have to send so many cases to Baghdad or outside of Iraq, but I'd like to see children saved with complex cases here, in Fallujah.
We share this dream with Dr. Firas, and we intend to do whatever we can to help him fulfill it. This is only the second of many missions to come—we're in this for the long haul! Come back tomorrow to read part two of the interview, and consider giving to help us save more lives in Fallujah and across Iraq.