Ceeya Patton Bolman is the 3rd generation of nurses in her family. Originally from North Carolina, she started her career at Duke University. She then moved to Minnesota with her husband in order for him to complete cardiac surgery training at the institution where cardiac surgery began- the University of Minnesota. A Pediatric ICU nurse by background with a Master’s of Nursing of Children from St. Louis University, Ceeya worked with a Boston based team to establish cardiac surgery for children in Poland through Project Hope in the early 1980s. In 2005, her husband Dr. Chip Bolman, an academic heart transplant surgeon for over 20 years, accepted a position in the Harvard system at Brigham and Women’s Hospital to become director of the cardiac surgery program.
Away from two daughters, now both nurses, and their familiar, calm Minnesota routine, Ceeya began to look for a project to ground the family in the fast pace life of the northeast. A trip to Africa with Watertown, MA based Sattelife, now part of AED, to see nurses in a variety of practice settings in Africa proved to be life changing. On a visit to a hospital in Rwanda, she saw a ward full of young teens ages 12-20 dying of end- stage heart failure from rheumatic heart disease. All with huge hearts that you could see beating from across the room, complete with a young 10 year old boy tied upright to a rope so he could continue to breathe.
Ceeya returned to Boston, recruited her husband, and united with a group of ICU nurses at BWH to form Team Heart, which registered as a 501 c 3 in 2009. From that very first year, it was evident this trip would not be a one and done trip for the Bolmans. This trip lead to a commitment to develop a sustainable program in order to increase prevention, education and early intervention, as well as providing life- saving care to patients in Rwanda. The co- founders, Ms. Bolman and her husband Chip, continue the search to find a solution to provide more care with a dedicated team of amazing volunteers who continue to give up vacation time, and raise money, to make this happen. Ceeya and Chip have shared their passion for health care in Rwanda with their daughters, Melissa and Paige, and have both travelled to Rwanda to volunteer as nurses with Team Heart.
As a full time volunteer, Ms. Patton- Bolman travels to Rwanda approximately 3 times a year and spends most of her time planning the surgical team’s travel, packing supplies, and collaborating and planning with key stakeholders on how to eradicate Rheumatic heart disease in Rwanda; a preventable disease of childhood and poverty caused by untreated strep throat.
The goal of Team Heart is to build a comprehensive state of art cardiac care center in Rwanda to provide care for the near 12 million people with no access to specialized cardiac care. It is a project truly life changing for Ceeya and her family.