Heartbeat Myanmar Program Needs Donations To Save Burmese Children With Congenital Cardiac Defects

Commentary: Vietnam has been blessed for having Robin King Austin who has helped to save more than 3,000 Vietnamese children with congenital cardiac defects during the 9 years in operation of Heartbeat Vietnam. All your donations are 100%  dedicated to help the children.


As Myanmar or Burma has just taken steps to liberalize and democratize the society, healthcare system needs help. Ms. Robin King Austin now wants to repeat the same success in Myanmar that Vietnam has been lucky. In a country of 60 million people, there are only 8 cardiac surgeons. Myanmar has definitely severe shortage of surgeons. She is in the early preliminary process of developing a so-called ““Heartbeat Myanmar” program. What a generous and kind efforts from Ms. Robin King Austin!

According to the Virtual Medical Miracle Network, there are a few medical groups are ready to provide medical and surgical expertise and assistance such as:

  • The famous Vietnamese pediatric surgeon, Prof Nguyen Thanh Liem of Hanoi National Pediatrics has agreed to volunteer his time in providing surgical care and teaching the burmese surgeons to master more surgical skills.

As a blogger, I have been blessed to get acquainted with the miracle workers who make a difference daily in someone else’s life, I am appealing to your generosity and compassion, my colleagues and other philanthropists in making the “Heartbeat Myanmar” another success story. All donations can be made directly to VinaCapital Foundation.

The following is Robin’s letter upon her return of the visit to Burma.


I have just returned from Myanmar where I met hundreds of wonderful people and learned much about the exciting changes taking place in the country. Thank you all for your help in educating me, and providing introductions.

I spent the last two days learning about Medical issues and Cardiac Surgery in Myanmar. I am very impressed by the wonderful leaders of the Myanmar Medical Association (MMA) and their vision for the future and I have pledged my help to provide help in building capacity in pediatric, neonatal and cardiac care through training as we have in Vietnam. According to government statistics Infant mortality has  been reduced from 49.3 / 1000 live births in 2001 to 27.1/1000 in 2010 and under 5 child mortality has declined from 73.5/ 1000 to 34.91 / 1000 live births from 2001 to 2010. This is great progress, but more needs to be done

My passion for the last nine years has been children with congenital heart defects in Vietnam. Our program, Heartbeat Vietnam, has provided over 3000 surgeries for poor children, seen 21,000 children in outreach clinics and provided training and equipment to many heart centers.  We are quite well known in the world heart community for our International Symposium for Cardiac Care comprised of 32 teleconferenced symposia broadcast to 9 interactive sites in Asia and webcast around the world.  Vietnam has 150 surgeons in 22 heart centers and is now doing transplants and very complicated surgeries. While we will always be needed to help poor children, I feel comfortable adding on another country now for capacity building.

Myanmar has 60 Million people and only 8 cardiac surgeons. They desperately need our help in this area. The incidence of congenital defects worldwide is 8 per 1000 children and Myanmar is no different. The surgeons in Myanmar are doing simple procedures ASD/VSD/TOF, which usually comprise about 80% of cases worldwide. However there are many more difficult lesions that cannot be done in Myanmar. At present, very few surgeries are being done in Myanmar, and even fewer in children. The government pays for surgeries and doctors fees, but I would imagine, just as in Vietnam, that poor families still find it difficult to get their child to the hospital because of the cost of transportation and medicines. There is no question that many children are dying in Myanmar because of this. We want to help.

The MMA and Dr. Win Win Kyaw, Chief Surgeon at Yangon Children’s Hospital (YGH), are very anxious to have surgical teams come to Myanmar to operate and train the surgical and ICU teams. I am sure that we can arrange for several teams to include Myanmar in the coming year. They will donate their time, but we will need to provide transportation and hotel for them during their stay. Usually these stays last about 1 week on the ground and about 50 cases can be done. The teams usually are 6-8 members including surgeon, anesthesiologist, perfusionists, intensivists and cardiac nurses. We will also be looking for surgeons and intensivists who might commit to a longer stay.

We also want to arrange for some of the children with severe defects to come to Vietnam for surgery.  There are direct flights on Vietnam Airlines to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh and both cities have many excellent teams for difficult cases.  Some children will have no problem flying without a doctor’s care, but in cases where medical support is needed, we can provide that as well on the commercial flights. Surgeries in Vietnam average $3,200 with complicated cases running as high as $7000 because of long hospital stays and multiple tests and procedures. Dr. Dinh at University has already agreed to help us with these cases.

Eventually we would also like to identify some Burmese doctors for overseas training in Geneva, Kuala Lumpur, Vietnam and USA.

I am writing you today to ask for your help personally and professionally to identify donors who can help provide funds for Heartbeat Myanmar. Many of you have Burmese clients whom I would expect would be interested in saving children in their country. Many of you have clients who are starting to work in Myanmar and need a CSR project. Many of you have connections in the Burmese Diaspora. A donation to this program will not only save children, but train the cardiac surgeons that may end up helping family members of the donors and anyone working or visiting Myanmar.

Donations can be made via our website, noting the program name “Heartbeat Myanmar”, or you may connect the donor to us for bank wiring info and additional information. VinaCapital Foundation (VCF) has a generous donor, our founding partner VinaCapital, who pays our overhead, so 100% of every dollar donated can be used directly for this program. VCF is an American 501 (c)3 so donations are deductible for Americans.

Yesterday I saw an 8 month old handsome baby boy and a precious 9 year old girl who will surely die without our help. They are both gray and cyanotic which means that every day their major organs are being damaged by lack of oxygen and every day they suffer.  We need to get them to Vietnam as soon as possible to save their lives. I hope you can help.

Warm regards,

Robin Austin



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