Dr. Jennifer Liedel, her ICHF experiences changed how she cares for children

Sunday October 12, 2008 12:00:00 AM

 Dr. Liedel, ICHF medical volunteer

Dr. Liedel is a pediatric post operative ICU physician at the University of Chicago's Comer Children's Hospital.  She cares for children of all ages and sizes in an underserved Chicago area because she believes everyone should receive the same care regardless of economics or geography.

The trip to Santiago, Dominican Republic in July, 2007 is Dr. Liedel's second ICHF trip. The first was to Shanghai China and she is planning a third.  "To be a member a team that works with children of even fewer resources than those I work with in Chicago makes me realize that here in the US we sometimes take our medical luxuries for granted and use them because it is easier or more convenient."  In Santiago, there are no x-rays that display automatically on computer screens in operating rooms or unending supplies of IV fluids, syringes, antibiotics, and pain medicines. Parents wait for the ICHF team for days, sleeping in line on the floor with their children, going out only for food. As a result, Dr. Liedel treats pain differently today and has reduced her reliance on medical technology. "I rely more on my physical exam skills, not laboratory tests or other tests so much. ICHF mission trips have made me a better doctor back in Chicago."

ICHF mission trips can be challenging as team members often face lost luggage and delayed flights, but, unlike tourists, have no time to spare. They must be organizing their medical areas with the local team within hours of landing.  But, the rewards are large.  As Dr. Liedel relates, "On this trip we were greeted at the airport by members of the Santiago medical team and again when we arrived at the hospital to help us set-up. For me, this trip was special because of the enthusiasm and contagious energy of the Santiago medical students, nurses and physicians. It made each day a pleasure, no matter how busy and tired we were."

Dr. Liedel has expanded her volunteer work beyond her role as a medical team pediatric intensivist. Working with several other volunteers, she is developing an education program for the local students and doctors with the goal to make them autonomous in caring for the children as well as others without congenital heart disease. Dr. Liedel in the operating room

The team work is something wonderfully special for Dr. Liedel. There is much joy in working with people from very different backgrounds who quickly become a cohesive team sharing in the camaraderie of caring for the children. But, it's the children are the real heroes for Dr. Liedel, "They have just had their chests opened and closed. It is difficult to be pleasant, especially for the smaller ones. It hurts to breath, to move. With smiles on our faces, we coax them to sit up, blow bubbles and move. It is a chore for them, but they do it."

Donors and sponsors can feel confident that their contributions are making a difference from Dr. Liedel's perspective. "We give kids a chance to catch up to the other children running ahead of them.  We give children, at the very least, a chance to a live a longer life with less pain, and in many cases a completely full life.  These kids would never have a chance without the ICHF."