Ian developed severe rheumatic heart disease and had been waiting for a few years for surgery, but was denied a surgical spot in the past because other children were more critically ill. He is a very sharp young man, 5th of 56 in his class, and desires to be a physician. Because of his heart condition, he was short of breath, could only walk a short distance, and had swelling of the legs. Ian finally underwent his surgical mitral valve replacement on this trip. He was very unstable going into the surgery, but ultimately tolerated a very difficult repair. Importantly, his life commitment remained unchanged, as he was heard saying within 6 hours of his surgery, "I want to be a doctor,” and “I want to heal people of their diseases.”
Blessing first came to see the physicians in the Congo at the age of 2. She had been diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot in Kinshasa but then her father was transferred to Bunia. Blessing was always very quiet and happy to be held by her mother. In general, she had very little energy. In Congo there aren't many options for patients born with congenital heart defects, so in order to get the proper testing, she traveled over 350 miles to Kampala, Uganda from Congo for an echocardiogram.
In 2011, Blessing and her mother then traveled from Congo to Tenwek hospital in Kenya, a journey of over 600 miles, crossing over multiple countries borders and traveling to a country with a different language. Soon after arriving, the team at Tenwek Hospital successfully performed surgery to fix her heart, with her doing extremely well afterward.
Blessing was an observer...she didn't meet one of the medical professionals without first studying them. Initially she wasn't free with her smiles, but as the days progressed she started sharing those with us as well. She was always accompanied by her dear, faithful mother Micheline. After the surgery and her stay at the hospital, she and her mother made the long journey back to Congo. When she was seen by her physician several weeks later the difference was fantastic. Now Blessing was literally dancing on her toes. She did not want to be held. She did not want to stay still.
Her mother said that perhaps her husband was transferred to Bunia just so that Blessing could have this surgery, because in her hometown of Kinshasa, less than five children a year of several hundred receive the heart surgery they so desperately need to survive and thrive.
Precious is the second born to a family from Kericho, Kenya. Around her first birthday a family member who is a medic thought Precious may have a problem with her heart. She was not gaining weight well, but otherwise appeared healthy to her parents. Her parents took her to be examined, where she was seen by several physicians as far away as Nairobi (over 150 miles). They learned that she did infact have a problem with her heart: a hole between two pumping chambers [a large VSD] that should not be there.
They also learned that only a few children are able to have heart surgery each year in Nairobi and the cost of this surgery is 400,000 Kenyan shillings or $4,700. This cost was far above what her family could afford. They kept faith alive and continued to search for other options.
They heard about a team coming to Tenwek to perform heart surgeries. They visited for a screening and discovered she would be a good candidate for surgery, the timing was unknown and she could have to wait until the following year. In the midst of their wait, their other son, who was back in Kericho, came down with appendicitis and had to be operated on emergently. They traveled back home to take care of him and while there found out Precious would have surgery later that week. The cost for surgery at Tenwek, which is really the cost covering the hospital stay and treatments required relating to surgery, would be 1/10 of the cost at Nairobi. Their prayers had ben answered in the midst of this crazy week!
Precious had her heart surgery and did incredibly well. She was eating and drinking by the end of the day and ready to play with bubbles and toys. She quickly returned to her normal self and traveled home to Kericho with her family. Since then she is in per-school at the top of her class. She is very active and enjoys playing with her brother.