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Jan 31, 2007

Young patients receive “gift of life” from Rotary

Story PictureThis is not the first story we’ve done on the Rotary Club’s Gift of Life Programme and we sincerely hope that it’s not the last. Today I spoke to doctors and others involved in the latest patient evaluation sessions and continue to be impressed that in a world so torn by irrational hatred and violence, there are so many people dedicated to helping others.

Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
Twelve year old Neville Bermudez and Nickieon Reyes are two primary school students who share more than just a friendship. The young boys are among the growing number of children in Belize, who are living with heart defects. We caught up with Bermudez and Reyes at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital where young heart patients filled the aisle at a specialist clinic. It was Reyes’ eighth visit to the K.H.M.H. to be examined and receive an update on his condition.

Jacqueline Godwin
“Nickieon, do you know what is wrong with you?”

Nickieon Reyes, Heart Patient
“I, I have a heart problem. I have a valve leaking.”

Joyce Reyes, Nickieon Reyes’ Mother
“Sometimes he says he feels bad, his chest di hurt. Sometimes he says, “Mommy I feel like I di breathe two times.” This morning he felt bad and had to vomit. He just go off and on.”

Elizabeth Dominguez, Neville Bermudez’s Mother
“Whenever they have a doctor come in they want to keep an update on him, especially like how they find a new leakage in August, so they just want to do a follow up and see how the heart is doing.”

Jacqueline Godwin
“Any talk about any future operations on Neville?

Elizabeth Dominguez
“Well when Dr. Huhta came in August, he said he need a surgery, but it’s something that he didn’t want to rush into right now because what they need to do—the surgery that they find out that he need is to remove the four valve and put in artificial ones.”

It is hard on these young patients as they don’t get to play like other children and they sometimes miss school when they are just too sick to attend classes. For them, just being in the company of other young boys and girls who have similar health problems is a comfort, making them feel that they are not alone.

Neville Bermudez
“It noh wah hurt for you, but if your ma go and they show them what they wah do, they wah feel hurt, but you noh wah hurt. You noh feel nothing. “

Nickieon Reyes
“Sometimes when I cough my chest hurt.”

Neville Bermudez
“Yes, mi that catch me too.”

Since Bermudez underwent his surgery a little more than two years ago, this courageous young man has been a pillar of strength as he eases the children’s fears and concerns about the procedure. It’s a relief for Reyes who will one day undergo a similar operation.

Neville Bermudez
“My surgery took six hours fi done.”

Nickieon Reyes
“They put a camera deh right? Mek I see your scar? Man, that big. I mi get one when I drop off the top bunk.”

Neville Bermudez
“But the one from the theatre will be bigger than that.”

Elizabeth Dominguez
“Even though he was sick, he didn’t give up and to me with his spirit he can encourage the other child or other children to be strong and to move on even though they know they are sick, you know Jackie, and that is some thing great for me.”

It will be one year old Tony Moody’s first visit to the clinic. The little boy was born with a hole in his heart.

Jacqueline Godwin
“When you first notice that something was wrong with Tony?”

Stephany Tucker, Tony Moody’s Mother
“When he mi first born, the doctors from Cayo weh tend to ah, they say nothing happen to ah. He gone home the morning and I had to send him back, he mi start to bring out lot ah spit and thing outta his mouth. I like done mi di give ah up for dead. … Well I want they try their best to help my son, because he dah the only one I have right now.”

As the children waited outside to see the visiting interventional cardiologist, Doctor Zahid Amin, inside the examination room, five year old Peter Aragon having getting his heart monitored. The young boy’s mother, who was expecting to hear the worst, was relieved to learn that results showed that although Aragon’s valve was still narrow, at this point does not need to be surgically replaced.

Dr. Zahid Amin
“Today we have seen a patient who had a hole between the lower chambers of the heart; we saw one patient whose valve was very tight, so it doesn’t open when the blood had to flow out of it; and we saw a patient who had complex heart defects and had surgery about thirteen years ago in the United States, just to see how the heart was functioning after the surgery, because it was complex. So we have seen a variety of patients.”

Thanks to the Rotary Club of Belize, these children are receiving treatment their families would otherwise not be able to afford. Rotarian Yvette Burks is the coordinator for the Gift of Life Programme.

Yvette Burks, Coordinator, Gift of life Programme
“The experts tell me that about one in every thousand infant is born with some little incompletion of the anatomy, of the heart. And I don’t think Belize is any different in that regard, according to the people that we always work with at Rotary. At this time, we have about three hundred patients in our database.”

The children, who are referred to the United States, undergo surgery at the Children’s Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska. According to Dr. Amin, heart defects are generally linked to genetics.

Dr. Zahid Amin
“The incidence is always higher if mother has a history of heart defects, if sibling has a history of heart defects, or an incidence is higher in patients whose father has heart defects.”

Elizabeth Dominguez
“I have to give God thanks and praise everyday because if it wasn’t for him, he wouldn’t be here, even though he had the surgery. But I will say he’s doing much better than before.”

On Thursday, the visiting medical team from the Children’s Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska will head to Dangriga to hold a similar clinic.

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