Medical Mission Update #3 – An Amazing Day in Santo Domingo!

I awoke this morning in Santo Domingo with a good feeling. During the day, that feeling transformed from good… to great… to inspired… to extraordinary. The source of that transformation was ‘Day One’ of the Mount Sinai Medical Mission at Hospital General de la Plaza de la Salud (HGPS) in the Dominican Republic. While I could ramble on-and-on about all that we experienced today, I thought it might be fun to share several pictures from this altruistic event.

Leonel Pirchardo With Family Before Surgery
Leonel Pirchado & Family

First, consider the picture of Leonel Pirchado, his wife, three daughters and son-in-law. Leonel, who was the first patient of the day, was diagnosed with severe mitral regurgitation in September. Leonel had a unique disorder known as Barlow’s disease. To remedy that disorder, the Mount Sinai – HGPS team performed a complex bi-leaflet valve repair.

Dr. David Adams, Dr. Fred Milla and Natalia Sanchez
Dr. Fred Milla, Natalia Santana Sanchez & Dr. Adams

After Leonel was taken to the operating room, Dr. Adams and Dr. Federico Milla met Natalia Santana Sanchez (shown above), who was the second scheduled patient. A very sweet woman, Natalia lit up when Dr. Adams walked in the room. It turns out that Natalia is Internet-savvy and spent a good amount of time researching Dr. Adams. Like Leonel, Natalia also suffered from mitral regurgitation and required a valve repair operation using an annuloplasty ring.

Dr. David Adams & Adam Pick at HGPS
Dr. David Adams & Me

The next stop was… the operating room. A few minutes before the procedure began, I had time to discuss this Medical Mission with Dr. Adams and learn more about his earlier philanthropic work. Unknown to me, Dr. Adams had previously traveled to China, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam for similar missions.

Gideon Sims, Dr. David Adams, Dr. Ricardo Lazala
Gideon Sims, Dr. Adams, Dr. Ricardo Lazala

I continued to learn more about Mount Sinai’s charitable efforts from Dr. Ricardo Lazala, the Mission Director, and Gideon Sims, the Administrative Director, of the Mitral Foundation.

Dr. David Adams Performing Mitral Valve Surgery

Once in the operating room, the Mount Sinai and HGPS team worked together seamlessly. Here you can see all the physicians — Dr. Adams, Dr. Milla, Dr. Fischer, Dr. Bernada Cedano, Mary Joy Santillan, RN, and me — huddled around Leonel as they reconstructed his valve.

Annuloplasty Ring Being Prepared For Implant

As you can see above, an annuloplasty ring was used to support the structure of Leonel’s valve.

Juan Obando, The Perfusionist

Juan Obando, CCP, was the perfusionist and managed the heart lung machine while Leonel was on bypass.

Dr. Alcantara Abreu Silverio, Dr. Miguel Guerrero Columna and Dr. Ricardo Lazala

During the day, I learned a lot about HGPS from Dr. Alcantara Abreu Silverio, Dr. Miguel Guerrero Columna and Dr. Ricardo Lazala (shown above). At a meeting with Dr. Julio Amado Castaños Guzman, its Chairman, Greisy Concepcion, its CEO and members of the HGPS leadership team, along with a hospital tour conducted by Desiree Diez Portela, I learned that this facility is the largest hospital in the Dominican Republic with 12 operating rooms, 285 beds and 9 wards. Last year, HGPS had over 300,000 patient consults and 14,000 hospitalizations. It should also be noted that on July 18, 2012, HGPS performed the first successful heart transplant in the Dominican Republic.

Greisy Concepcion (HGPS CEO), Me & Desiree Diez Portela

After the Mount Sinai-HGPS team performed a successful mitral valve repair on Natalia, the group went out for a late dinner at David Crockett’s. At midnight, we returned to HGPS to ensure that Leonel and Natalia were doing well. Good news… They were doing great. 🙂

By the time we got back to the hotel, I was exhausted. That said, I quickly jumped into bed to get as much sleep as possible before ‘Day Two’ of the mission began. To get more mission updates and other important information about heart valve surgery, you can subscribe to my free newsletter.

Keep on tickin!

Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick

Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of

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