I thought it would be beautiful to close this month of hearts by sharing a story about healing broken little hearts.
This is a milestone year for me because, in June 2018, my son Migi will be marking his 20th anniversary in heaven. He was four years old when he died in 1998. Last Feb. 21, he would have been 24 years old.
I like to think that he’s a young man now with the Lord. The thought comforts me.
Because milestone years are a challenge, I wanted to do something special to remember it by. A few months ago, I got in touch with a good friend, the interventional pediatric cardiologist Jonas del Rosario, who heads the pediatric cardiac catheterization program at Philippine General Hospital (PGH) and the institute of pediatrics and child health at St. Luke’s Medical Center BGC.
We talked about a project to help children born with congenital heart defects. Migi passed away from complications after open-heart surgery to repair a condition called Tetralogy of Fallot. Open-heart surgery was too expensive, and we could probably help only one child.
Del Rosario suggested we instead do a simpler but life-saving procedure, cardiac catheterization, a technology not readily available 20 years ago. Thus, project 20@20 was born.
On a social media post on the eve of Migi’s 24th birthday, I sent up a prayer with a lovely logo designed by a family friend, Tina Araneta. I talked about Migi’s birthday and how we’d like to “help other little heart patients like him have a better chance at life. He may not have made it 20 years ago, but with the advancement in medicine and technology, little children with broken hearts now have a better chance to heal.
“In partnership with Doctor Del Rosario and some of his colleagues at the PGH and the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) we are looking at fixing the broken hearts of 10 pediatric patients between Feb. 21 and June 3, 2018.
“We are looking for 20 kindhearted individuals, families, groups of friends, or organizations who are willing to donate P20,000 for each child. Each was born with a congenital heart condition—patent ductus arteriosus, atrial septal defect, or ventricular septal defect—that affects the way blood is pumped through the heart. If left untreated, these could affect a child’s health and their chance at a full life.
“These defects will be fixed through cardiac catheterization, which involves passing a small wire into the heart and placing a patch over the defect. The cost of the procedure is P40,000 per patient; thus, each child will have two sponsors for their surgery…”
The response floored us.
God sent many kindhearted individuals, so that by the evening of Feb. 21, we had found donors and pledges to cover the procedures of our targeted 10 children!
The response kept coming —we now have enough donors to heal the broken hearts of 14 children.
A hole in her heart
Jonas suggested we now go and try to help heal 20 little hearts.
Our first little patient had a successful procedure last Feb. 23. K is a bubbly five-year-old girl from Mindoro. She had a hole in her heart that needed to be repaired badly. Her family borrowed money and came to Manila. They initially went to the Philippine Heart Center, but some angel directed them to Del Rosario at the PCMC.
K fit the parameters of the patients we were looking for. Early Friday morning, the hole in her heart was fixed. Her mother wrote me that K is now back in Mindoro and that they had all gone to church yesterday (Sunday), and that she was raring to go back to school.
This week, two more patients will undergo the same procedures.
It’s this kind of stories that gives a deeper meaning to life and loss. My son may not have survived his own surgery 20 years ago, and it’s a loss my family and I live with every day of our lives.
But 20 years later, by God’s grace, we continue to find an even deeper meaning in his early departure. With the help of generous donors and a big-hearted doctor, 20 little lives will be saved. I’d like to think that, in a way, my son continues to live on in those 20 hearts we hope to heal.
If you like to sponsor a child’s heart procedure, please send us an e-mail through firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you so much in advance for helping heal broken hearts.