I had been a perfusionist in cardiac surgery for nine years, and my career had become stagnant and very unfulfilling. I had everything material that I wanted, but waking up in the morning was akin to Bill Murray’s character in the movie, Groundhog Day. Everyday was the same; void of any fulfillment, greater significance or sense of being alive. I was stressed, edgy and really hungry for change. At that time, a few colleagues of mine had begun to venture into the realm of humanitarian cardiac surgical missions, and being curious I applied as well.
My first attempts at engaging humanitarian surgical projects were not successful, and feeling slighted I shook it off and reapplied elsewhere. My first experience was in Southern Perúfor a two-week mission under another non-profit, which changed my entire outlook on my profession, skills and humanity. I was alive, and found a new way to connect to and create a better future for others. I slowly began to reorient my life around these two-week opportunities, volunteering again in Perú, Uganda and Ghana. It seemed too little, and I only wanted to engage in these opportunities more and more. After searching countless times, I found a trailer for a documentary called Open Heart, by Kief Davidson. In the short documentary, I saw scenes filmed in an incredible hospital, The Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery, and I just had to find out more about this place and it’s cause.
As I learned more, I became convinced that this was not only where I needed to be, but that I could not afford to miss this chance. I resigned from my job, applied with EMERGENCY and waited. Colleagues and family thought I was crazy, but those who knew my journey and where I was in life had little doubt that I would soon be elsewhere. Looking back, I find it quite interesting how we offer ourselves so many excuses for not pursuing the significant things in our lives.
I now realize that there are moments in life for which we will never be afforded a second chance. Moments that we will never have the opportunity to live again and choose the future we were born to live. This opportunity, I felt, was one of mine. After a couple of Skype interviews with EMERGENCY, I was granted the chance to be a part of their work. At the end of May of 2013, I arrived in Sudan to work at The Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery for six months. In the immigration area at the airport, having been in the country no more than 20 minutes I met a camera crew from 60 Minutes, whom I at first mistook for medical personnel. They were in Sudan to film the hospital and its amazing work, and through divine opportunity and my choice to be there, I was invited into the segment 60 Minutes created about The Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery. I was ecstatic!
Through those months, I worked with the surgical team to restore the lives of numerous patients from Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Chad, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. I learned new techniques from Italian and Serbian colleagues in my craft, for which I am grateful, experienced life with new friends, and saw a part of the world that I had never seen. I became aware of what is possible for each of our lives as well as how big of an impact we can have on humanity and the quality of life for others. I look forward to future spaces where I can share with others the same impact we can all have on humanity.
Kyler T. Hunter, M.S., C.C.P.
Medical Advisory Council – EMERGENCY USA
EMERGENCY USA is hosting a free online web chat with Kyler on Tuesday, July 22nd at 11 am PT/2pm ET. If you would like to join us please RSVP by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.