The following is a translation of a feature on MercyOne Children’s Hospital’s Yucatan Program that appeared in the summer 2019 issue of Vail En Español Magazine.
Locals can see David Hockmuth, M.D. skiing in Vail or in Des Moines, Iowa, where he is the only pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon in the state and an active member of the Yucatan Program.
While Colorado is his home away from home, Dr. Hockmuth spends most of the year in Des Moines, Iowa, 11 hours east of Vail. He is the most experienced pediatric surgeon in the state, with 27 years of service at MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center and the Iowa Heart Center. The Yucatan Program was one of the first projects he took on after joining MercyOne Des Moines in 1993. This program provides much-needed cardiac care and surgery to underserved children in Mexico´s Yucatan peninsula. Among these patients, those most in need of surgery who cannot pay are transported to MercyOne Children´s Hospital. In total, more than 1,100 children have been treated over the 41 years since the beginning of this initiative.
“The Yucatan Program aims to offer care to children in need,” says Dr. Hockmuth. ¨For them, it may be their lucky day because it means they have a second chance in life.” He´s referring to children like Ian Aguilar-Heyser, who was born with a complex heart defect that is fixable, but not during childhood. Ian was just 11 months old when he was chosen for PA Band surgery, which gave him more time before needing an atrial and arterial switch procedure, an extremely complicated surgery performed only a few times per year in the U.S. “Every year we talk about performing the big surgery, but he´s doing so well that we´ve been able to postpone it indefinitely,” said Dr. Hockmuth.
“We are very thankful that Ian was selected to participate in the Yucatan Program. There are no words to express my gratitude to Dr. Hockmuth and his team for what they did and what they continue to do.” said Ian´s mother, Andy Heyser. The Yucatan Program is supported by contributions from individuals and organizations, including MercyOne Des Moines. Nonetheless, more support is needed. With additional financing, Dr. Hockmuth and the team of pediatric cardiologists led by Thomas Becker, M.D., can continue teaching surgeons in Yucatan to perform these surgeries and create a more sustainable model for their communities.
If you are inspired by this story and would like to make a donation to support the Yucatan Program at MercyOne Children’s Hospital, please contact Sophia S. Ahmad at email@example.com or 515-643-8035.