Mila Markova

Tell us a little about yourself and your work.
My name is Mila Markova. I work as a psychologist in the pediatric cardiology unit of the National Heart Hospital in Sofia, the only hospital that performs cardiac surgery on children in Bulgaria and Macedonia. I am also a member of “Child’s Heart”, the Bulgarian association founded to improve the quality of life for children and grownups with congenital heart diseases and their families.

What does your job involve?
My main job is to prepare children and their families for heart surgeries. That means that I talk to the parents before the child comes to the hospital and make sure that they understand everything about the procedure. After the surgery, I also talk to them so that they can review their experiences. I usually take care of 10-15 children and their families at the same time, depending on how many children are being treated at the department.

How did you become a psychologist for heart children? What was your motivation?
I’ve always been interested in child psychology. When I was studying psychology, part of my practical training was working with children. I also have a friend with a chronic heart condition, that’s how I became more and more involved in CoHD. When I started to work in the hospital I saw that the family is extremely important to sick children. In Bulgaria, families are very large, and they tend to over-protect the children. That is one of the challenges of my job. I need to talk to everyone in the family, otherwise, I won’t be able to help the child.

What do you like most about your work?

I enjoy working with so many different kinds of people from different cultures. You never know whom you’ll be meeting next, which cultural background they have. Many of our patients come from Bulgaria, but we also have Macedonians, Albanians, and Arabs. And there is a Turkish minority in Bulgaria. So you never know what will happen, what religion and family structures you’ll encounter.

A lot of our patients are Roma. In Roma families, the grandmothers are very important. So it’s necessary to involve them. We try to explain to the families that their children need to know what is going on and what will happen during an operation. Turkish families in particular are very, very protective of their children, they want to shield them from everything that might scare them. Some would even prefer not to tell their children about the operation at all. So I have to make them understand that not telling their child these things will undermine the child’s trust. Because when a child wakes up in the intensive care unit and realizes she has been operated upon, she will feel shocked, scared, and betrayed.

Where do you see a need for improvement in your area?
First of all, in the health care system. Health insurance used to be public in Bulgaria, but now we have one private insurance company. Everybody pays their premiums to this company, and the company has an agreement with the government. All health care is then paid by the insurance company and the government. This means that the government can dictate prizes. Let me give you an example: an operation may cost 25,000 euros, but the government decides that they will only pay 15,000 euros and that’s enough. But it isn’t really enough, so the hospital has to struggle with these limited budgets.

How can Corience help you in your work? What do you expect from such a platform?

I hope that Corience will grow into a huge internet resource with a wealth of information about congenital heart diseases. Information is so important! Many parents tell me that the first thing they did when learning about their child’s condition is to try to Google for information. Corience will be a perfect way to deliver that information in an accessible way – if they understand the language. That’s why I hope that someday there will be a Bulgarian version.

What do you do when you’re not involved in heart matters?
I like to go swimming and dancing. Twice a week, I’m taking lessons in Latin dance and Bulgarian folk dance.