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We believe the integrity of the team of professionals volunteering time to our organisation is the reason to donate to Heart 4 Kids. Efficient, experienced, technically skilled and hard working. Click here to see the entire list of team members.

Surgical Team
Kirsten Finucane
photo of Kirsten Finucane

Kirsten is the Head of Paediatric and Congenital Cardiac Surgery at Starship and Auckland Hospitals, the only unit in New Zealand to perform children's heart operations. She has over 20 years of experience as a cardiothoracic consultant and has led the team for over 15 of those years. The unit in New Zealand performs over 400 major operations per year, many on infants under a year of age, with results comparable to those of the best centres in USA or Europe.

An experience working in a missionary hospital in Nepal in 1984 and seeing the huge positive impact of good operations on their sick, was her initial catalyst for deciding to train as a surgeon.

One of Kirsten's major interests has been repairing the valves of children affected by rheumatic heart disease, for which she has several publications, and these operations on over 150 children have included many from the Pacific Islands brought to New Zealand for treatment.

Kirsten is mum to 3 boys, and lives in Auckland with her partner, John Wright. In 2009 Kirsten received the New Zealand Order of Merit in recognition of her dedicated national service and international reputation in the field of paediatric cardiac surgery.

Read more about Kirsten in recent articles - Lion Heart: Amber-Rose Gailer by Suzanne McFadden NZ Herald and Preventing a third world disease from killing our children by TVNZ

Keeley Lawson
photo of Keeley Lawson

Keeley's role as an anaesthetic technician is to assist with the administration and monitoring of the anaesthetic during surgery. This involves an intricate knowledge of all of the anaesthetic equipment and techniques.

Keeley worked as an Anaesthetic Technician at Starship Hospital for 10 years before venturing into the medical sales world. She has been involved with Hearts4Kids right from the start and looks after the pharmacy side of things, liaising with the different teams to ensure everyone has the drugs required for a successful mission whilst also trying to minimise stock taken to reduce costs and waste.

In her spare time she likes to bake and decorate cakes, watch the Warriors play and play goalie for Western hockey club out in Avondale.

Helen Sargent
photo of Helen Sargent

As a surgical nurse assistant, Helen’s main role is to first assist the surgeon at the operations. Her technical expertise and knowledge allow the operation to be done safely but at speed, which is important for good outcomes in this specialty. The role is more comprehensive than operating alone as it involves both preoperative checks to ensure all the information is available for each patient on the operating table, and postoperative care alongside the medical staff in the wards.

Helen has a long background of nursing experience in the cardiothoracic field having worked at Greenlane and the Ascot Cardiac theatres. She came to the Starship unit as paediatric first assistant in 2011.

Through 2008 to 2013 Helen joined the adult operating team going to Lautoka, Fiji four times to perform cardiac surgery and travelled to Zambia with another team. Last year, Helen coordinated the first paediatric visit to operate in Lautoka, Fiji and enabled the team to perform 12 operations safely and with the resources needed.

Helen grew up in Auckland and lives with her husband and three boys in Meadowbank. She is a keen boatie and enjoys being out on the harbour and out of range of the phone!

Medical Team (cardiology)
John Wright
photo of John Wright

John Wright is a paediatric cardiologist who trained in Medicine at Cambridge University and after various junior posts, developed his career in Birmingham Children's cardiac unit working there for over 20 years with the best outcomes in the UK, in particular for complex neonatal surgery.

The son of Sir Oliver Wright, a well known British diplomat, he spent his childhood years moving from country to country and thus has always had a love of travelling and learning about different cultures. Over the last 25 years he has volunteered on a variety of surgical missions to support local services or support surgeons visiting to operate where the countries do not have access to services, including East Jerusalem, Malaysia, and India.

In 2009 John came to NZ to do a locum and stayed permanently, to become a member of the Starship cardiology team. He was interested in the visits of his colleagues to Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu for clinics. A friend on the golf course who is an expatriot from near Lautoka, Fiji, persuaded him to consider visiting Fiji and look at how services to heart children could be improved there, and the ideas for this project were born!

He lives with Kirsten and enjoys walking the dogs, playing golf and supporting the All Blacks and the Black caps (unless they are playing England).

Ana Kennedy
photo of Ana Kennedy

Ana's role is leader of the ward nursing team. Ana has twenty years experience as a nurse practitioner both in the US and NZ. A nurse practitioner (NP) is an advanced practice registered nurse who has done extra training in a specific area. Ana is one of only two NP registered by the NZ nursing council in two areas of practice; neonatal care and paediatric care and was Starship's first ever NP.  

Ana headed up the paediatric ward team on the 2015 Fiji trip. She remembers:

We worked around the clock (I did my first night shifts in nearly 10 years) to continue the great work of the surgeon and ICU team and discharge all our patients home. I loved talking to the parents and families before discharge and encouraging them to dream big now for their children who had been so sick for so long. 

One of the kids, Mary, who came in very sick and could only take one stair at a time was running in the hallway the week after her operation.

Ana is a very valued member of the team for her experience, compassion and commitment. 

Being part of the hearts4kids team in 2015 was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I am so looking forward to caring for more kids this year and giving back these children their chance at a bigger life.

 

Intensive Care Team
Brent McSharry
photo of Brent McSharry

Brent McSharry is a specialist paediatric intensive care doctor. His primary role on the mission is to care for the children as soon as they leave the operating theatre.

Brent's Australian drawl hints at his Sydney origins and training. He has spent years in paediatrics and emergency medicine working in varied locations around Australia including remote north Queensland and the Northern Territory. Brent also volunteered with MSF in Sierra Leone.

His love of the outdoors helped to bring him across to New Zealand in 2009 and he is now firmly settled here with his young family.

He enjoys teaching other doctors, students and medical staff and last year his teaching ward round at the end of the Fiji visit was valued by all.

Carol Robinson
photo of Carol Robinson

Carol Robinson leads the intensive care nursing team, recruiting and organising the group of senior nurses who look after the infants and children in the first few hours after surgery.

Carol has been to Fiji four times with the adult team and last year with the first paediatric visit. Her role includes creating inventories of the equipment and drugs required as absolutely everything needs to be brought from New Zealand to recreate an intensive care environment within the basic facilities of the local hospital.

Carol's parents were farmers and she was brought up in the Bay of Islands where the serious impact of poverty and poor health on people's quality of life was a reality in her day-to-day life. She has had a long career in cardiac intensive care nursing, first at Greenlane, and then at Starship Hospital.

Her passion is in the area of education, and she currently holds the portfolio for Cardiac Education in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at Starship. Since going to Fiji she has been actively working to upskill the nurses there by direct teaching sessions during the visits, by including local nurses on the rostered shifts to work alongside our nurses, and by providing certificates that acknowledge the local nurses involvement and skills obtained at the end of the visit.

In 2015 Carol plans to implement an educational programme that she has now developed specifically for Fijian nurses to improve their knowledge and skills in paediatric intensive care, which will have a year-round impact on the quality of care for all children admitted there with critical health problems, not just cardiac.

Carol lives out west with her partner and two adult children and loves tramping, gardening and watching absolutely any sport on TV.

She has taken great pleasure in seeing young adult patients from earlier missions return to tell her just what a huge change the surgery has made in their lives.

The (pro-bono) support Crew

We would like to acknowledge the huge amount of work done by various Rotarians, Fijian medical staff and others.