Treating complex defects in Kaliningrad

On our mission to Kaliningrad, Russia, we are traveling with a team of the top U.S. medical professionals. Heart to Heart medical volunteers are working with the local team to create treatment plans for children with complex heart defects. This week, we are operating on some of these children. More importantly, we are using these patients’ cases to help train the local team to make the best well-timed surgical decisions for children with similar heart defects in the future.

Several of the children we’ve examined on this visit will require a Fontan procedure, the last of three surgeries for children with severe defects like Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Our joint Heart to Heart-Kaliningrad surgical team, led by Dr. Mark Galantowicz of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, has been performing these operations and will finish the last case today.


Over the past week, Heart to Heart’s cardiologists Dr. Mark Cocalis of UCSF and Dr. Nathan Taggart of the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN performed echocardiograms on over 50 patients and diagnostic catheterizations on more than a dozen of them. Today we will continue performing open heart surgeries, conducting conferences and patient case discussions, presenting lectures, and screening more children with various types of CHD.

Despite the severity of many of their heart defects, the young patients here in Kaliningrad are lively and bright. Their families are committed to ensuring that their children receive the help they need to live full lives. One mother tells us that her older son hopes to become a cardiologist when he grows up, so that he can help repair his little brother’s heart.

Thank you for your support as we work together to save more babies and children.

Hannah Hunter