(WJHL) – Dr. Jeff Schoondyke knows the importance of having access to good medical care. He and some of the staff at Karing Hearts Cardiology are taking that care to Bolivia.

Chagas Disease affects 1.8 million people in Bolivia, the highest rate in the world, and requires cardiac intervention. Dr. Schoondyke and his team are stepping in to provide life-saving help.

“There’s a disease down there called Chagas Disease that is transmitted by a bug bite, and it’s a very serious endemic problem down there,” says Schoondyke.  “It causes heart failure, it causes a lot of low heart rates, and access to pacemakers and defibrillators down there is not really all that great, so we’re going down there to serve those people.”

It’s a labor of love that is close to his heart. His office manager’s family is building a hospital in Bolivia and asked Dr. Schoondyke for help. He jumped at the chance.  

“You just want to fulfill a need, really. And when someone comes to you and says, ‘You have a skill that not many other people have,’ and they want access to it, you just can’t say no,” he said. “I mean, you just want to do the right thing.”

So for a week in May, he will be bringing defibrillators and implanting pacemakers in patients in Bolivia.

“With the practice that we have here, we’re able to help so many people locally. I think it’s one of those things if you’re given the opportunity, you just go and you do and you don’t really ask questions,” Schoondyke said.  “You do the right thing, and we’re just very lucky to be able to do this.”

But, they can’t do it without help.  Dr. Schoondyke and his team are paying their own way to Bolivia, but they need assistance buying supplies and medication.

“We do need a lot of medical supplies, and we need access to antibiotics,” he said “So if anyone has any connections, that would be a big help.”

Schoondyke says help is always found in the East Tennessee community.

“I think it reflects well on our community, the support that they give us,” he said. “So really, I think it gives you a lot of perspective outside of where we live here in East Tennessee.”

Those interested in helping Schoondyke and his team can learn how by visiting Karing Hearts Cardiology’s website or by visiting the donation page.