Ronaldo Carlos Ramirez, 7, smiles with Brenda Flores, 10, as they sit in a waiting room with their mothers, Martha Ramirez, left, and Rosa Flores at the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU on Monday. Both children recently had surgery for congenital heart defects at the institute. (Rhett Butler/The Daily Reflector)
By Katherine Ayers
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Most children take running, playing outside and attending school for granted.
But 10-year-old Brenda Flores and 7-year-old Ronaldo Ramirez didn’t have those options until the beginning of November.
Both children were born with heart defects in Honduras, but earlier this month those defects were fixed thanks to the Samaritan’s Purse Children’s Heart Project and a team of doctors and community members in Greenville.
The children each had a hole in the bottom of his or her heart and a blockage that restricted blood flow from the heart to the lungs, according to Dr. Charlie Sang Jr., pediatric cardiology section head at the East Carolina University Heart Institute. Both conditions led to decreased oxygen supply to their bodies which left them chronically tired, delayed their growth and would have ultimately shortened their lives.
“There’s no care for their conditions in Honduras,” Sang said. “To be able to provide free care and have the local community embrace them, it’s a no-brainer.”
Speaking through a translator Monday, Brenda’s mother talked about the change she has seen in her daughter since they arrived to Greenville. Rosa Flores said Brenda is more outgoing and energetic and no longer needs the stroller she had been using because she wasn’t strong enough to walk on her own.
Brenda also will be able to attend school regularly and play with her brothers and sisters.
Ronaldo’s mother, Martha Ramirez, said she remembered her son turning blue about 15 days after he was born. She took him to the doctor, where he was diagnosed with the heart defect. Now Ramirez said Ronaldo is an active little boy and steadily has been gaining weight.
In Honduras, the children were being treated by a doctor with ties to the Samaritan’s Purse organization. The doctor placed each child on a waiting list to receive the surgery. Brenda had been on the list about a year and Ronaldo about three.
Once the children were accepted, the organization took care of the cost of the surgeries — between $60,000 and $80,000 by Sang’s estimate — and airfare for the children, one parent each and a translator.
Samaritan’s Purse also reached out to Landmark Baptist Church in Greenville to find a host family for the time the group would be in the United States. That’s where Chuck and Judy Barber came in.
“The experience has been wonderful,” Chuck Barber said. “From the spoons on the noses to the painted fingernails, it’s been fun.”
A few years ago, a fire destroyed the Barbers’ home, but Chuck Barber said it was a blessing in disguise because it allowed them to add rooms to the second floor which in turn allowed them to have enough room to provide housing for families in need.
To help offset the cost of housing the families, local church and community members have been providing dinner each night.
The group arrived from Honduras in late October.
ECU physician Theodore Koutlas performed both surgeries at Vidant Medical Center in early November.
Sang said the children were discharged on Nov. 19 and now are ready to return home.
Back in Honduras, Brenda and Ronaldo periodically will be checked by a cardiologist paid by the Samaritan’s Purse, but Sang said the children should be able to live normal lives.
“Now they have unlimited potential,” he said.
Since 2001, ECU in partnership with the Samaritan’s Purse and Vidant, has provided heart surgeries for 30 children across the globe at a rate of about two a year.
Sang said ECU is the only heart center in North Carolina to provide a service like this on a regular basis.
Contact Katherine Ayers at firstname.lastname@example.org and 252-329-9567.
via The Daily Reflector.