For Nash UNC Provider, Compassionate Care Has No Borders

Photo of Dr. Espinoza

Dr. Carlos Espinoza, a cardiologist for UNC Cardiology at Nash, has a passion for serving others. He puts that passion to good use while caring for his patients, both at Nash UNC Health Care and afar.

In addition to treating patients at Nash UNC, Dr. Espinoza also serves as President of a medical mission group called Project Health for Leon. The group’s mission “is to promote the improvement of medical care for the people of Nicaragua through education of health professionals, the acquisition of appropriate medical technology, and, when necessary, by direct patient consultation and medical and surgical care, both in Nicaragua and in the United States,” according to Project Health for Leon leaders.

“Many Nash UNC cardiologists have been volunteering in Nicaragua along with Project Health for Leon, which is a nonprofit organization that has been working in Nicaragua since 1985,” Dr. Espinoza explained.

It was through a trip to Nicaragua in 2007 that UNC cardiologists and Project Health for Leon physicians met a patient named David Mendoza. The patient was diagnosed with a heart condition that put him at risk of sudden cardiac death. The Project Health for Leon team arranged for Mendoza to travel to the United States so he could receive a cardiac defibrillator to treat his condition. Due to defibrillators having a lifespan of 7-10 years, Mendoza’s device was replaced in 2014.  

Dr. Espinoza explained that while Mendoza is a patient, he also serves with and supports the Project Health for Leon team.

“Mr. Mendoza, besides being our patient, has been involved in Project Health for Leon by providing transportation for our team members and patients to and from the hospital where the procedures and clinics take place.”

When Mendoza was in need of another defibrillator this year, UNC Cardiology at Nash and other UNC Cardiology team members didn’t hesitate to coordinate the surgery. While the procedure was unable to be performed in Nicaragua, thanks to Dr. Espinoza and the Project Health for Leon team, Mendoza was brought to Nash UNC in October 2021 for the life-saving surgery.

Dr. Joseph Bumgarner, a UNC Health cardiologist, performed the implantation of the new defibrillator with the assistance of Dr. Espinoza and a team of Nash UNC nurses.

“I am thankful to Dr. Espinoza, the nurses and administration at Nash UNC, and the team from Abbott for the opportunity to help Mr. Mendoza with a life-saving and life-sustaining device that will allow him to live with more confidence and peace of mind that his heart is being watched and protected,” Dr. Bumgarner said.

He added that his work as a cardiologist is all about helping others in need, so he was touched by Mendoza’s story and thankful to be able to help him.

“Good work, the support of a great hospital system, and God’s blessing allowed us to serve Mr. Mendoza, and I am very thankful and appreciative for that opportunity.”

Mendoza, who does not speak English, was able to speak with his care team after the surgery with the help of a translator.

“I feel blessed and I am thankful to the hospital, the physicians, and the staff for having me here. Now I can go on with my life and enjoy my family,” Mendoza told Dr. Espinoza.

Sarah Heenan, Executive Director of the Nash Heart Center, was moved by the patient’s gratitude toward her and the team who performed the surgery and cared for Mendoza during recovery.

“What really touched my heart was how grateful this man was for our hard work on his behalf. He told me over and over again how much it meant to him and to his family,” she said.

In the end, Nash UNC, UNC Cardiology, and Project Health for Leon were able to work together to improve the health and well-being of a patient who otherwise would not have received the care he needed to survive.

“UNC Cardiology and UNC Cardiology at Nash leaders are honored to serve together in order to change the life of a patient,” Dr. Espinoza said.