Scenes From the Field: Colombia MegaAHA

From the Field

Eager participants from across Latin America and the Caribbean came together for Operation Smile’s “MegaAHA” American Heart Association training sessions in Cali, Colombia. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) mannequins and equipment were used by the participants to learn and practice chest compressions along with other life-saving skills. According to the AHA, when CPR is administered in the first few minutes of a cardiac arrest, a person’s chance of survival can be doubled or tripled. Photo: Jasmin Shah.


Bolivian anesthesiologists Drs. Heidy Zarate, left, Karoline Rocabado and other participants watch instruction videos in the pediatric advanced life support (PALS) course. Photo: Jasmin Shah.


Medical professionals practice CPR during a basic life support (BLS) training course. Photo: Jasmin Shah.


Instructor and anesthesiologist Dr. Maria Mercedes Payan of Guatemala educates participants during a PALS training course. Maria has been a volunteer for Operation Smile for seven years, attending 52 missions. When asked what the most impactful part of being a volunteer is, Maria said: 

“To see the parents' expressions after their child has received surgery. To have the parents be able to see the change in their child. This happiness, this feeling, it motivates me and gives me more energy to continue helping the children.” Photo: Jasmin Shah.


During a BLS training course, operating room nurse Carla Gonzalez of the Dominican Republic works with other health care providers from Venezuela, Peru and Guatemala. Photo: Jasmin Shah.


“This is the best investment that donors are making. Thank you; thank you to Operation Smile for always giving me opportunities to do my job better,” said pediatrician and AHA instructor Dr. Marcos Polar of Peru. The 12-year Operation Smile volunteer added that it was his first time as an instructor and described the experience as being “a great opportunity to become a better doctor.” Photo: Jasmin Shah.


When asked what Operation Smile means to him, instructor and anesthesiologist Dr. Marcelo Rivero of Bolivia, center, said, “For me, it means ‘family.’” It’s Marcelo’s sixth year as an Operation Smile Regional Medical Officer but his 15th year as a volunteer.  

“These courses are super important because they improve our knowledge of how to save lives. Saving lives is the majority of why medical professionals are doing what they do every day. So, the courses teach you to be better at saving lives; it is great professional and personal development,” Marcelo said. “One can only understand the importance of saving a life once you have saved a life and can see that this life you have saved is a father, a mother, a child, a best friend, a member of society.” Photo: Jasmin Shah.


Instructor and post-anesthesia care unit nurse Nelson Franco of Paraguay teaches nurse Amalia Chumpitaz of Peru during a PALS training course. “When I began volunteering with Operation Smile, I changed. My vision changed — of life, professionalism,” Nelson said. “Operation Smile has helped me in various ways. Each mission allows you to evaluate life and appreciate everything that you have.” Photo: Jasmin Shah.


Pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Viera of Honduras studies with her classmates before the PALS practical exam. Photo: Jasmin Shah.


“Operation Smile gives me opportunities to increase my knowledge, and I feel a responsibility toward my fellow Brazilian nurses to be able to work at the same level as nurses around the world,” said AHA instructor and nurse Silvia Natch of Brazil, left. “My patients are receiving better attention. I have the opportunity to attend capacitations as a professional and continue to grow. Operation Smile has changed my universal understanding of what it means to be part of humanity.” Photo: Jasmin Shah.


The Operation Smile MegaAHA training program in Cali, Colombia, provided life support training to 120 volunteers, representing 11 countries from around the world. From that total, 239 certifications were rewarded, including 63 BLS and PALS instructor certificates and 176 BLS and PALS provider certificates. Photo: Jasmin Shah.