Saving Young Hearts.
Building Bright Futures.

By Steven Benoff

In sub-Saharan Africa, where strep throat largely goes untreated, it has led to an estimated 275,000 premature deaths occurring each year.

There are some Heroes whose journey is so powerful it needs to be shared, whose mission is so great that it must be rallied behind. Heroes recognize the work that must be done, often work that no one is doing, and they roll up their sleeves and they do it. At LRobInspires we have a mission too, to find Heroes that are on amazing journeys and join their fight; we are experts in collaboratively giving brands focus, vision, and impact. It’s an honor for the LRobInspires team to be part of the Team Heart journey. 

To call Ceeya Bolman and her husband Chip Bolman Heroes is an understatement. After decades in the field of Medicine in the United States, they were already Heroes touching thousands of lives, Ceeya an ICU nurse, and Chip the Chief of Cardiac Surgery for 15yrs at the University of Minnesota Hospital and then 10yrs in that same role at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. That accomplishment alone would to many be enough, but not to Chip and Ceeya.  Their passion for medicine goes far beyond their drive for successful careers, for them, it’s only about the healing of lives and not about personal accolades.   

To call Ceeya Bolman and her husband Chip Bolman, Heroes, is an understatement!

A Desire to Give Back

The creation of Team Heart began with Ceeya’s desire to give back.  Before the mission had the clarity it has today, there was already a journey of selflessness underway for Ceeya. In 2006 Ceeya was traveling with another Non-Profit working on developing an online Nursing Journal. She was scheduled to travel through the African countries of Tanzania and Uganda. Just before leaving on her trip, she had the good fortune to run into a trusted friend on his own heroic path: Paul Farmer with Partners in Health. Partners in Heath had recently built a hospital in Rwanda and Paul invited her to visit. This new stop on her schedule would prove to be more than just a change of itinerary, this visit would change her life. 

She arrived at the hospital in Rwanda which had just completed construction.  They arrived at a hospital already treating patients, though they had yet to have electricity or running water. The Hospital structure was complete, but it certainly wasn’t a hospital that looked like it was ready for visitors let alone patients.  Ceeya added a five-day stop to her schedule to do what Heroes do, roll up her sleeves. 

In one of the wards of the hospital, Ceeya observed several young patients who were particularly ill. This group of young men ages 8 to mid-twenties troubled her a great deal. In varying degrees of severity, they all appeared to her to be in some form of respiratory distress, many so thin you could see their ribs as their frail bodies struggled and gasped for breath. Surely this was a group of Tuberculosis patients (one of the focuses for Partners in Health) It came as quite a surprise to her that Tuberculosis was not the culprit here, these patients were all suffering from Rheumatic Heart Disease.

In the United States to see patients this young with this advanced RHD though not impossible is unlikely; and certainly not an entire ward of patients ranging from children to young men. Rheumatic Heart Disease is a disease born from poverty. A Highly preventable Disease that most Americans will never experience thanks to a simple test for strep throat followed by a very easily attainable prescription for penicillin.  

For the people of Rwanda, health care is no simple task.  There’s no local pediatrician’s office to pop into between work and mealtimes.  A trip to any doctor is often a two-hour walk followed by countless hours of waiting for the possibility to be seen by a doctor, who may or may not be able to diagnose strep considering they have no access to a strep test.  Left untreated the symptoms of Strep throat will subside, but in some cases, the damage is far from over.  In some patients, though the symptoms of strep have gone the body’s auto-immune response begins to attack the heart, and by the time any symptoms present the only solution is Cardiac Surgery.  

Ceeya was so moved by the patients she saw, she immediately called Chip, and her message was clear: We can fix this! 

A Three Week Process

Over the last 17 years, Team Heart has been on a mission to do just that, fix it.  Each year Ceeya, and Chip with a team of medical volunteers travel to Rwanda for three incredible weeks. In week one they evaluate the dozens of patients to select the few that will receive lifesaving heart surgery, in week two they perform the surgeries, and in week three they deliver the post-operative care.  Week one is perhaps the most heart-wrenching week of the trip. There is joy and hope as they identify and select patients from the candidates, those that have the best chance to survive and thrive post-surgery but can’t risk waiting till next year’s Team Heart visit; and there is disappointment for those that even if they survived surgery would have no hope of recovery. Imagine the unbearable task of telling a 19year old young man that his heart is that of a 90year old and there can be no surgery for him. 

Team Hearts work is not just completed in these three weeks, though it’s in these three weeks that each year for the last 17 years they have saved over 400 young lives. Though progress has been made including the arrival of Rwandas first resident Heart Surgeon (Dr. Maurice Musoni), Team Hearts work is neverending.  Ceeyas message to Chip that day “We can Fix this” is not limited to the healing of the few individuals they can treat each year they journey to Rwanda.  Ceeya’s message is a battle cry to the world that we can fix this with education and preventative care to keep the people of Rwanda from needing lifesaving Cardiac surgery.  

Help of a Different Sort

Team Heart is an organization of medical professionals that know how to save lives, but even heroes need a little help sometimes. By Ceeyas own admission, they are experts in the field of medicine and specifically heart surgery but started this venture knowing little about marketing their mission.  With the help of LRobInspires marketing process and expertise their brand is taking off.  

In our exclusive Brand Strategy Workshop, Team Heart leadership and their biggest supporters came together to create a unified purpose, mission, and voice that has allowed them to amplify their brand message. We took that voice and personality and wove it into a new social media strategy to extend their reach to new audiences. And then we designed and implemented a new website with clear brand presence, a new user experience, and a SEO framework that was crafted to engage and grow their network of support.  

“The experience with the LRobInspires team was a pivotal moment for us. We needed to rethink our future and they helped us all see that.”

The entire team at LRobInspires is honored and humbled to have been a part of the journey thus far and looks forward to being a part of their continued mission to create a healthier Rwanda. And remember, we’re here to inspire you on your journey to making a difference in the world.

“From the very beginning we wanted to deliver life-saving cardiac care in a country where such specialized care was not available to the world’s most vulnerable population. We wanted to see the care accessible by all and sustainable so it can continue long after we are gone.” Ceeya Bolman

Team Heart

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