Liliana Pizo grew up amid extreme rural poverty in the province of Cochabamba, Bolivia. As is common in households such as hers where even food is scarce, at a very young age Liliana paired off with a young man she met, hoping to establish their own home and perhaps get ahead in the world. Before she was 16, Liliana was pregnant. But by the time her son, Alexander, was born, her boyfriend had abandoned them and disappeared. Alexander is now four years old, being raised alone by Liliana on around $110 dollars a month she makes as an assistant in a donut shop. They live in the town of Punata in a barely-furnished rented room, sharing a bathroom with multiple other tenants.
Although Alexander has always been as curious and rambunctious as any little boy, as he grew Liliana noticed that he tired quickly, even to the point of momentarily passing out. Especially terrifying were his sudden nighttime attacks of acute shortness of breath and coughing, a condition that would eventually be diagnosed as paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea, or PND.
After years of restless nights and lonely days worrying about her son, in early 2013 Liliana was able to get him evaluated at the Manual Villarroel Hospital in Punata. Doctors determined that Alexander needed surgery to correct a congenital heart defect. Paying for such surgery was out of the question for Liliana. She began to knock on doors, and was fortunate to find some support through a local affiliate office of World Vision. To urgently address Alexander’s surgical needs, she was referred to the Cochabamba office of Solidarity Bridge, Puente de Solidaridad (PuenteSol).
Liliana is an extremely introverted young woman and is very nervous talking to strangers. While being interviewed by the experienced social workers of PuenteSol, she compulsively rubbed her hands together and expressed embarrassment and guilt for her condition as a single mother. She described her situation in a low voice:
I am mother and father by myself … I thought that his father was going to help me raise him but instead he left before [my son] was born. When I took him for a consultation the doctor told me that he needs a heart operation. I am very scared because that must be bad and also because I have no money. My family lives in the countryside and they barely have enough to eat so they can’t help me….
Alexander received his surgery at the Belga Clinic on October 30th and was discharged on November 7th, 2013. Dr. Carlos Brockman closed the opening between Alexander’s heart ventricles and repaired the surrounding tissues, with the hope that his heart will begin to function more normally.This surgery was made possible through the financial support of Dharma Trading Company. Liliana is no longer all alone in the world with her small son, thanks to the combined efforts of World Vision and Solidarity Bridge.