Riley team heals tiny hearts in Amman, Jordan

Riley 100 |

10/09/2023

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Dr. Turrentine leads the 36th medical mission trip to the Middle East to deliver lifesaving care to children.

By Maureen Gilmer, Riley Children’s Health senior writer, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

The Riley Children’s Health heart team recently completed its 36th medical mission trip to Amman, Jordan.

CVICU nurse Heather Dornbusch chronicled the trip, led by Riley cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Mark Turrentine, who spends his vacation time each year performing lifesaving surgeries on children who don’t have good access to care.

“As always, we had the most amazing experience at Al Khalidi Hospital,” Dornbusch said. “It’s incredible to see what these families have sacrificed to get their children to Jordan … to get the lifesaving care they so desperately need.”

The weeklong trip included 13 little hearts mended, 10 open-heart surgeries, multiple heart caths, lots of echocardiograms and many lives forever changed, she said. There were also reunions with previous patients, always a treat for the team.

Along with Dr. Turrentine and Dornbusch, Dr. Mouhammad Yabrodi, a critical care physician at Riley, and Dr. Michael Johansen, a cardiologist, were among those making the trip again this year. Also participating on this trip were physician assistant/intensivist Kelly O’Neal, nurses Peyton Wilson and Becca Baute and perfusionist Roaya Braqa.

For Wilson, her first trip to Jordan was “truly lifechanging,” she said.

“You really feel like you’re doing very meaningful work. My first shift back at Riley, I was just profoundly grateful because we have so much that is right here at our fingertips that allows us to give such high-quality care to our kids,” Wilson said.

Unfortunately, many hospitals in the Middle East don’t have access to the same types of technology and treatment, so kids don’t always get a second chance at life, she said.

Dornbusch is among those humbled by the experience, which is made possible by Gift of Life Amman, the Josh Lindblom Foundation, Rotary Club of Greenfield and Chain of Hope UK, among others.

“If you need a change of perspective, this is a sure way to get it,” she said. “We have been blessed with the skill to help these children with cardiac defects, but we would not be able to do what we do without the donors that make this trip possible. From Indiana to the UK to Jordan, we have donors near and far who make it possible for our team to give these children a second shot at life.”

This might have been Wilson’s first trip to Amman with the Riley team, but it likely won’t be her last.

“I absolutely loved it, and I would 100 percent go again,” she said. “It was truly probably the best week of my life.”

Previous stories:

Heart surgeon’s vacations are spent saving lives overseas - Dr. Mark Turrentine and his Riley team just returned from a week in Amman, Jordan, where they corrected heart defects in a dozen children.

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