Why is the more difficult path often the most rewarding? It is this path, made up of medical challenges, culture and language barriers and incomprehensible lack of current health and technology standards found in westernized countries that we find CardioStart volunteers walking.

What makes a CardioStart volunteer?

There may not be a stereotype of a CardioStart volunteer. But one thing is certain: they are called to serve.

Sher Stiles, a critical care nurse living in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, has participated in two CardioStart missions—to Vietnam and Uganda—and will serve as Mission and Education Coordinator on the April trip to Ghana in western Africa.

105-years-old Vietnamese

Nurse Sher Stiles with 105-years-old Vietnamese

“It’s hard to put into words what CardioStart has done for me. I’ve always had a strong sense of service. It started when I was a young girl, reading medical books to a blind elderly woman.  This grew into being a physical caregiver to her when she developed gangrene from diabetes complications. Though she paid me for my services, I felt like I should have paid her because of the knowledge and experience I gained.  Even as a young girl, I realized that I was meant to do this work, to serve in this way.  My strength, my courage, my desire to help others was nurtured through this very special woman, my patient and my dear friend.”

As a CardioStart volunteer, the ‘job‘ is demanding, but the payoff is immeasurable. Volunteers travel halfway around the world, on their own dime and vacation time. They willing apply their skills and knowledge in cardiac care to patients with little hope of survival without free lifesaving surgery. In addition, volunteers teach the latest cardiac surgical skills and critical care practices to medical staff who often possess basic surgical and patient care knowledge.

“Part of why I became a nurse is so I could continue to grow, learn and ultimately use my experiences to make a difference not only in the community where I live, but also in places where the need is desperate and often very challenging,” says Stiles.

Mother- Daughter RN’s Team up with CardioStart

Kristie & Sher Stiles with Dr. Aubyn Marath

Kriste, Dr. Aubyn Marath & Sher Stiles

Many CardioStart volunteers have been colleagues, friends and couples. But Sher and Kristie Stiles just might be the first mother and daughter-nursing tandem in the organization’s 25-year history.

“My personal gain was only made greater as I served alongside my RN daughter, Kristie,” said Stiles. “She too has a strong sense and ability to reach out to others in service.”

Spending two weeks in an underdeveloped country, often without the advanced medical equipment that is commonplace in developed countries can be daunting. Yet, rewarding beyond measure.

Stils concludes, “Through CardioStart, I was able to find something I had been looking for all my life: a venue to utilize my skills, education and experience and to serve in a way that truly mattered.”