Ripples to Rachael
Some of my favorite parts about doing this work for so long are the moments when we see the help given to one child go on to impact another. It’s like that beautiful analogy of a pebble being dropped in the water whose ripples go on to touch ever-widening circles. For example, sometimes I’ll hear from families who tell me that they happened to read online about an LWB child needing medical care, and that child’s story then encouraged them to open their own hearts to adoption. Those moments frequently catch me completely by surprise, but they’ve helped me realize fully that you never can know how a single act of kindness for one person can impact another’s life forever.
Last year, we were contacted by a father in Uganda whose six-month-old son Kaniel had just been diagnosed with an extremely complex heart defect. This was devastating news of course, but the situation became even graver when the Ugandan doctors said little Kaniel needed surgery before age one to survive — a surgery which could NOT be done in his birth country.
To give you some perspective on the cardiac situation in this east-African region, there is only one heart surgery hospital in the entire country of Uganda. They are able to do simple repairs forthings like ASD and VSD but are unable to take on more complex cases. In Uganda, it is estimated that 15,000 babies a year are born with heart defects. Of these, 8,000 a year need surgery to survive, and yet less than 1,000 receive medical help. Uganda’s doctor-to-patient ratio is 1 doctor per 18,000 people, and the entire country only has four cardiologists.
With a feeling of hopelessness, Kaniel’s father began searching the internet trying to find help for his son and learned that LWB was now working in Uganda. We soon received a letter from Kaniel’s dad asking if there was any way LWB could “help the save the life of my precious only son.” We immediately began searching for a way to make that happen.
Thanks to the generosity of Wolfson Medical Center, Save a Child’s Heart, and the House of Destiny, baby Kaniel was moved to Israel for his open-heart operation, and he returned to Uganda with a second chance at a healthy life. Kaniel recently became a big brother, and the entire community still celebrates the “boy who lived.”
That story is amazing enough on its own, but this is where my heart gets even happier. A family from another region of Uganda heard rumors of the little boy born with a “broken heart” who had somehow survived and grown stronger. This family had received the same devastating news that their three-year-old daughter Rachael had been born with such complex heart defects that she could never be healed in Uganda. She had struggled since birth with her oxygen levels, and her weakened state caused her to be hospitalized many times with malaria, pneumonia, and then measles. Each time she found the strength to recover, but her mother knew that her health was continuing to decline.
Even though it was a long distance from her home, Rachael’s mother decided to make the trek to find the “boy who lived” and see for herself the child who miraculously found healing. Once she met Kaniel’s family and learned that strangers around the world had helped him, she was filled with hope for her daughter. Kaniel’s father wrote us once again, this time asking if we could possibly find help for little Rachael. As soon as we heard her story, we began working to find a way for her to be healed as well.
This Friday, November 2nd, Rachael and her mother will board a flight in Uganda to head to Rochester, Minnesota to meet the wonderful medical team at the Mayo Clinic. The heart surgeons at Mayo have carefully examined her medical tests from Uganda and feel that even though her heart defect is extremely complex, Rachael can undergo surgery. Her pre-op tests will begin next week, and we are hopeful that her heart surgery will take place soon after.
We are so grateful to everyone at Mayo for accepting Rachael into their charity program for surgery. We would be so grateful to you if you would lift up this beautiful three-year-old as she has a very long journey ahead of her, with compromised oxygen levels. She was just recently hospitalized again in Uganda, as she is so vulnerable to illness, so let’s be hoping for a smooth journey for her and her mother so she can safely get to Mayo and into the care of their excellent physicians and nurses.
We will be posting about Rachael’s progress on our Facebook page and will let you know when the exact surgery date is set.
I love seeing yet another pebble of goodness dropped into the water. A baby boy in one part of Uganda went to Israel for his life-saving surgery, and the joyous news of his successful return sent out ripples which found their way to little Rachael. One precious life now touching another, which will surely continue on…all thanks to your kindness and generosity in making our essential work possible.
How wonderful to be part of a community that knows EVERY CHILD COUNTS.
~Amy Eldridge, Chief Executive Officer