Daniel and Marlen were each close to finishing their college degrees when they welcomed their first child, a daughter named Celeste. Celeste was born with Turner Syndrome, a condition resulting from a chromosomal abnormality and often accompanied by other health problems, including heart malformations. In Celeste’s case, she needed surgery to close a large atrial septal defect and a small ventricular septal defect. In other words, the entire length of the wall between both the upper and lower chambers of Celeste’s heart needed to be patched.
Overwhelmed by the needs of their tiny daughter, the couple decided that Marlen would drop out of school to move to Cochabamba to live with Daniel’s parents, while Daniel stayed in Oruro where he collaborates at a mining company in exchange for a stipend while he finishes his thesis toward his Chemical Engineering degree. The grandparents agreed to provide a home for Marlen and Celeste until Daniel obtains his professional title and secures a good job so he can properly support his family.
Celeste was deemed sufficiently stable for surgery in May 2015, when she was eight months old. She spent two more weeks in the Belga Hospital in Cochabamba to recover from the extensive repairs to her fragile heart. Daniel and Marlen are well aware that this was just one of the many challenges they will face as Celeste’s parents, but having made it through this surgery they have gained considerable confidence that they can continue forward. Once Daniel obtains his degree and secures employment, Marlen hopes to return to school and complete her own degree. They have a long road ahead of them, but having benefited from the solidarity of all those who made Celeste’s surgery possible has reassured them that they are not alone.