For many Heart to Heart staff and volunteers, our last mission to Tomsk, Siberia in the Spring of 2012 was extremely emotional. The program had developed beautifully over time and in the end was a huge success. We all felt a great deal of love and admiration for our Russian colleagues, who had shown incredible dedication to their professional growth and their patients throughout the seven consecutive years of our collaboration. Longtime volunteer Brenda Jarvis sensed the special connection between Heart to Heart and our colleagues at the Tomsk Cardiology Institute. For Brenda, it was imperative to find a way to show her gratitude in a tangible way. That’s why, in the last stretch leading up to the end of our active collaboration in Tomsk, Brenda taught herself enough Russian to deliver a toast to her colleagues in their native tongue. Brenda’s toast received a standing ovation. That is the level of enthusiasm and commitment that Brenda brings to Heart to Heart, to our colleagues, and to life.

Brenda is a senior pediatric cardiac intensive care nurse at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, one of the top children’s heart centers in the United States. Each and every year, the tiny hearts of about 800 babies born with life-threatening congenital heart defects are competently and gently cared for by Brenda and her American cardiac colleagues.

Brenda’s first mission with Heart to Heart was to Tomsk in 2006. Since then, she has participated on 15 trips, most recently traveling to Chelyabinsk in April 2015, where the video above was filmed.

On our surgical-educational missions, Brenda works collaboratively with American and Russian pediatric cardiac intensive care specialists – nurses and doctors – to advance post-operative management of children after open heart surgery. She is known for holding empowering workshops for nurses and for advocating to promote nursing education in anticipation of an advanced children’s heart program that will care for newborns and babies with the most complicated of heart defects. Most of all, Brenda is known for her down-to-earth common sense, her great sense of humor, and her no nonsense let’s-get-it-done attitude. We love you Brenda!