Slowly dying from rheumatic heart disease, Jean-Paul says he was blessed to receive the first heart valve replacement in Rwanda. Immediately following recovery, he began helping others get the care they need by organizing and managing the Rwanda Patient Care Network through Team Heart.
“I first met my friends at Team Heart in 2007, when they traveled to Rwanda from Boston, Massachusetts to evaluate a hospital site to build a potential cardiac surgery program. At the time, I was bedridden and being treated for endocarditis. I was not getting involved in productive work, and I was unable to complete the most simple of tasks in the home. Originally misdiagnosed with a sore throat, I discovered I had heart issues caused by rheumatic heart disease (RHD) infection. My heart was not working properly and was unable circulate blood through the body due to blockage and a leaky valve.
“Team Heart implanted an aortic valve in me, the first valve replacement in Rwanda. Immediately following recovery from surgery, I felt better. And I felt a need to extend a helping hand to other heart patients who had the same illness.
“I soon began my job as a taxi driver. And I began by volunteering for Team Heart, helping support and teach other patients. I started the Rwanda Patient Care Network, volunteering time to help make sure they understand information about the disease and heart surgery. I show them my scars, and tell my story of recovery. I also transport them to appointments, and help raise money for medications.”
JEAN-PAUL’S WORDS OF INSPIRATION
“Even with a serious heart condition, you can live a normal and productive life. One that ensures one fulfills his own mission in life. I was given a blessing, and I hope that I can help other people who may be suffering.”