Many people don't realize this, but the strep throat virus, if left untreated (which is often the case in developing countries), can adapt into Rheumatic Fever and, in some cases, Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD), which can be fatal. Samoa records one of the highest rates of RHD in the world, approximately 14% higher than neighboring countries. The reason for this is unknown, but Rheumatic Rescue is working to unlock the answers—which could lead to improved prevention measures around the world.
The disease is completely preventable, yet it claims the lives of roughly 233,000 people each year.
The mission of Rheumatic Rescue is threefold: One, educate children and their caregivers about the severity of the disease and give them knowledge to prevent it outright. Two, screen children for early signs of the disease, and if signs appear, ensure the children get the necessary treatment (cases of Rheumatic Fever can be halted in their progression by monthly penicillin shots, but advanced cases of RHD require complicated open-heart surgery, which developing countries like Western Samoa can't provide. Serious cases are flown to New Zealand for the procedure, but the cost can be completely debilitating for families, who might not see enough money in a lifetime for the medical and travel expenses required. Rheumatic Rescue works to secure funding for these families). Three, the program collects data in hopes of finding a genetic link that could lead to higher rates of susceptibility. Most importantly, Rheumatic Rescue works to ensure their efforts are sustainable by working in tandem with Samoan health care providers and government officials.
The Samoan tradition is replete with legends of prowess, honor, love and sacrifice. More than telling a story of Rheumatic Rescue, these images add a contemporary visual volume to their rich legacy—showcasing, inadequately, the inner beauty and strength of the Samoan people. The depths of their hearts are truly immeasurable.
THESE IMAGES WERE TAKEN BY A DEAR FRIEND JAKE BUNTJER AND MYSELF, MAY 2013
THEY WERE DISPLAYED IN A GALLERY AT UTAH VALLEY UNIVERSITY, AUGUST 2013
FOR MORE INFORMATION, GO HERE & HERE