From NIFA Surgical e-News, May 18, 2012

Name: Jennifer Riportella
Credentials: RN, BSN
City and State: Originally, Houston, TX; currently, Honolulu, HI (licensed in both)
Student Status: Current NIFA student in clinical portion
Current Position: OR Scrub/ OR Circulate / Pre-Op/ PACU/ Charge Nurse/ at Surgicare of Hawaii
Medical Missions: International Children’s Heart Foundation and Austin Smiles.

While attending a SutureStar summit in Denver last summer as part of their RNFA program, Jenni Riportella and Erin Brenner (featured in our Aug. 2011 issue) became instant friends. They are shown together in the photo above; Jenni is on the right.

“After introducing ourselves to the class we discovered that we both have a passion for pediatric surgery and missions,” Jenni wrote from Honduras last month.

“We shared stories and one thing led to another and just a few months later we served on my first cardiac mission together. Erin Brenner is my mentor at ICHF and this time she is in Ecuador while I am in Honduras. We have even had the opportunity to Skype each other one night while we are on mission.”

The April 2012 mission was Jenni’s second trip with ICHF (International Children’s Heart Foundation), but she has been doing mission work for the past three years.

In 2009 and 2011, for one week each time, she worked in San Salvador, El Salvador, with Austin Smiles. The team carried out approximately 50 reconstructive plastic surgeries per trip: primarily cleft lip and palate repairs on children. The mission team ran pre-op and triage; the OR work and post-op were done by a combination of mission team and local personnel.

Jenni’s first mission with ICHF was in October 2011. Both ICHF missions have been to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and she helped with approximately 20 surgeries per trip, operating on congenital heart defects / open heart surgery on pediatric patients.

“Education of the Honduran medical team is the main focus of the mission,” Jenni says. “We don’t just come to Honduras to do 20 surgeries in 2 weeks; we want them to be independent as a team and continue to save children’s lives after we leave.“

“I love mission work and helping children that wouldn’t otherwise be able to be cared for,” she adds. “Mission work is really a calling and it is why I became a nurse.”

The following photos are from Jenni’s Honduras mission with ICHF in April 2012.

Jenni with 7-year-old patient

Surgical team working on an infant

Honduras surgeon and Jenni