Melvin Herrera*

When Solidarity Bridge’s Bolivian staff visited the home of Juan and Ingrid* and their four young children outside of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, they were struck as much by the order and cleanliness as by the humble conditions. The minimal kitchen wares were neatly stacked, and the earthen floor and rough hewn tabletops and walls appeared almost polished. The family borrows the tin-roofed room from relatives, with whom they share a separate bathroom. They do their best to make it a dignified family home, within the financial constraints imposed by Juan’s income of roughly $170 dollars a month as a mechanical electrician.

In early September 2015, the family welcomed their newest edition. Melvin was declared healthy at birth, but two weeks later spiked a fever and seemed to grasp at his chest in pain. They went from doctor to doctor until specialists at the public Children’s Hospital in Santa Cruz confirmed a dual diagnosis of significant coarctation of the artery (narrowing of the aortic artery leading from the heart to the lower body), and patent ductus arteriosus (failure of the ductus arteriosus fetal blood vessel to close at birth).

Melvin first arrived at the Children’s Hospital on February 16, 2016. The financial straits of the family were evident, so they were referred to the heart surgery program managed by the local Puente de Solidaridad office for expedited assistance. On February 22, Melvin underwent surgery in the capable hands of Drs. Robert Pacheco and Arturo Barrientos to reconstruct his defective artery and seal off the open blood vessel. A week later, Melvin was sent home with his delighted and relieved parents. He is expected to make a full recovery, for which the family is eternally grateful to the Santa Cruz Children’s Hospital, the Solidarity Bridge/Puente de Solidaridad Heart Surgery Program, and the generous donors who make it all possible, especially Isaac and Renee Goff.

*All names have been changed for privacy.

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