Alex Hinojosa was born with a defective septum. The septum is the muscle that divides the heart down the middle, separating the right and left atriums and the right and left ventricles. Before birth, this wall allows blood to pass through it, but that permeability should cease at or soon after birth. In Alex’s case, a small opening persisted between the two atriums, a condition known as Patent Foramen Ovale, or PFO. Some blood flow also remained through the membrane between the left and right ventricles, a condition known as Perimembranous Ventricular Septal Defect, or PMVSD.
This type of congenital heart defect is routinely managed in the United States. However, Alex lives in Cochabamba, Bolivia, with his parents and three older siblings. His father, Juan Carlos, is a bricklayer with no health insurance, and the public hospital is ill-equipped for the surgery. What often happens to babies such as Alex is that the family puts the surgery off while they borrow from their family and neighbors, organize block parties, or improvise lottery games to try to raise the money. Time goes by and the children may survive but suffer persistent respiratory illnesses, stunted growth, and other debilitating effects of their condition. The effort to raise the funds for the surgery may leave the family destitute, and the delayed surgery means extended suffering and sub-optimal treatment, if and when it ever does happen.
But thanks to the support of the Solidarity Bridge Kid’s Heart Repair program, when the doctors told Alex’s parents that the moment was optimal to do his surgery with minimal risk of post-operative complications and maximum opportunity for success, the family was not forced to wait. The surgery, performed by Dr. Erika Pérez, took place on June 12, 2013, at the prestigious Belga Clinic in Cochabamba, when he was one year old. This surgery was made possible through the financial support of Dharma Trading Company. Alexander is home now with his family, and will continue to be monitored by our partners at the Belga Clinic. We and Alex’s family are very grateful to all those who played a part in giving him the best opportunity to live a full and happy life.