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Keri Annabel: 5 Hearts, 7 Days

OMUTIMA — the word for “heart” in the Lugandan language.

Eager and brave, they sat across from us leaned forward in their chairs, their eyes searching ours, hoping for help. Wearing her colorful, traditional dress for the special occasion, Mom held her fragile little one, and Dad was carefully choosing the right English words to tell us the story of their broken-hearted baby girl. On the ground in Uganda, our Love Without Boundaries team leaned forward to listen as well, moved by their story, and hoping to coordinate the urgently needed care for three-month-old Keri Annabel.

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The day after Keri Annabel was born, she developed a fever. A cough soon followed, so she was treated for pneumonia. When the cough didn’t go away, fear and concern began to mount. The parents of four older children, Mom and Dad had simply expected the arrival of another healthy, bouncing baby girl. These were frightening days for her stunned parents.

Instead of gently folding into family life at home with her sister and three brothers, baby Keri underwent a battery of tests. It was then determined that she had a complicated heart defect, far beyond what their local hospital was capable of accurately diagnosing or treating.

Despite their lack of money, they began the brave fight to find help and healing for Keri Annabel’s heart — her omutima.

They then traveled the long distance to the only heart hospital in Uganda where Keri Annabel was diagnosed with Truncus Arteriosus, a rare type of congenital heart disease. Instead of the normal two vessels, the pulmonary artery and aorta, her little heart has a single blood vessel coming out of her right and left ventricles.

Unfortunately, the hospital could not treat such a complex defect, and Keri Annabel’s parents didn’t have money for care. They were told to go home, get money, and look for help elsewhere.

Sadly, Keri Annabel’s is a defect that cannot be repaired anywhere in the country of Uganda. Unless the parents of children with this defect find the money and means to have surgery overseas, their children die.

Though they were seemingly out of options, Keri Annabel’s mom and dad refused to give up. Thankfully, they connected with a family whose child was the first in Uganda to receive surgical support through Love Without Boundaries. They reached out to LWB, and once again, hope was restored that Keri Annabel might one day get the help she needs.

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Last week in Uganda, as I sat listening to their story, I was grateful and honored to bear witness to the vulnerability and sheer grit of these parents. Their entire family has been upended by this unexpected medical crisis. Even still, they push forward. They’d traveled a long, arduous distance by bus and taxi to meet with our LWB team, eight hours from their home in Kitgum in northern Uganda, with a sick baby girl who tires easily.

Sweet Keri Annabel’s family proudly reported that she gives lots of smiles, but that they feel very worried about her. They shared nervously that she cries a lot. With anguish in her voice, Mom asked if their precious daughter could feel pain from her sick heart.

Keri Annabel’s need for surgery is urgent. If she had been born here in the US, her heart would have been repaired within a few weeks of birth since Truncus Arteriosus is such a complex defect. Babies who aren’t healed in early infancy often become inoperable. Her cardiac procedure needs to be done immediately to avoid the development of pulmonary hypertension.

Love Without Boundaries is in the process of coordinating help for her in India, where a medical team can perform the necessary surgery.

Your donation to our 5 Hearts, 7 Days Heart Initiative will be lifesaving for her, and life-changing for her whole family. Due to all the medical appointments, tests, and travel, Dad has missed many days of work, and Mom has not been able to work at all.

Mom and Dad pray every day, boldly hoping that their daughter will soon receive her surgery and finally begin a healthy life.

Like many Ugandans, Dad has big dreams for his family and their future. When his daughter is healed, he hopes to pay forward the help they receive by developing a foundation to help other families in their area find help with their children’s medical needs. With our help, Keri Annabel’s omutima can soon be operated on, and her family can begin again.

As Keri Annabel’s father told us, “We hope for the best and patiently wait.” 

This week’s guest blogs are written by Rebecca Radicchi, author and adoptive mom

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