Located in Eastern Africa, the country of Uganda is one of the poorest nations in the world. Almost 40% of the population survive on less than $1.25 per day and 85% of rural Ugandans live in poverty. There is little access to healthcare in a country that has eight physicians for every 100,000 people. It is from Uganda that HeartGift welcomed two year old Rigan and his mother Abia. Rigan has five older siblings that range in age from 4 to 18 years old. His parents are farmers and work long hours to support their family. The family home consists of three rooms with a latrine located outside the home. A nearby borehole provides water for the family.
When Rigan arrived in San Antonio he was ready for action. After 36 hours of traveling he waved, played peek a boo and connected with his new HeartGift friends, instantly. Although tired from their long trip both Abia and Rigan enjoyed the hearty welcome they received from HeartGift San Antonio. Within a few days Rigan visited the doctor for his pre-op exam and surgery was scheduled for the following week. The morning of surgery Rigan could be heard singing songs while waiting in the pre-surgical room. The surgery itself lasted two hours. Rigan had a fairly large hole in his heart which was repaired by his surgeon. Four days after open heart surgery Rigan was well enough to be discharged to continue his recovery at the home of his host family. In a few weeks, after the final "thumbs up" from his doctor, Rigan and his thankful mother will be heading back home to Uganda full of joy and hope for a healthy future.
The HeartGift Foundation has provided lifesaving heart surgery for over 175 children since 2000. In 2012 we expanded our referral sources and now serve children in 24 countries. Since we launched our GlobalGiving project, HeartGift hosted Ryan, a little two year old from Kenya. Ryan traveled to the United States for his surgery accompanied by his grandmother because his mother was due to have another baby. A local family hosted Ryan and his mother for their five week stay in Austin. Shortly after his arrival he had his pre-op appointments in preparation for his surgery. On the morning of surgery, after Ryan he was wheeled back to the OR, his grandmother remained quiet and solemn. She was clinging to the hope she had that he survive. Ryan's surgery went very well. The moment his grandmother saw him again as the medical team shelled him to recovery she smiled broadly and gave high fives to everyone in the waiting area. She was so relieved and happy that her little grandson was going to live. She placed a call to Ryan's mother to share the great news. During Ryan's recovery a number of volunteers offered their translation services so his grandmother could more easily understand all that was going on. Amazingly, one of these volunteers came from a village not too far away from Ryan's home and was of the same tribe. Ryan's grandmother was thrilled to talk to someone in her tribal language - what a blessing, what a wonderful gift. Ryan steadily recovered and returned to his humble home in Kenya. He was a ball of energy and full of life when he left, looking forward to a healthy future.
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