PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — A doctor born in Panama City is now helping save children half a world away.

Dr. Brandon Kirkland is an ICU Doctor and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Utah. He recently returned from a trip to Gaza last month, as part of a team of medical professionals sponsored by the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund.

The team performed heart surgeries on children ages 6 months to 12 years old.

“These are kids who mostly have holes in their hearts or have extra vessels that direct blood in an inappropriate way,” Kirkland said. “Over time can lead to heart failure and poor growth and lots of other problems, and ultimately can lead to an early death.”

Kirkland said the children are hand selected after careful evaluation.

Kirkland explained they tell the families to come on a certain day in time. Then they see the families and decide if this is an operation they can do. Kirkland said they check on a number of factors including equipment availability and long-term care.

Kirkland said they perform these operations to give the kids a relatively normal life. After the surgery, Dr. Kirkland and a colleague make up the ICU care team.

“They’re so grateful and so appreciative of being able to have this done there that it really just makes a huge difference for them,” Kirkland said.

Kirkland and the team also train the nurses, doctors, and others who work in Gaza. Their goal is to help them build the skill set to start providing more of these services on their own.