Most people rarely have occasion to stop to ponder the complex engineering feat that is the human heart. Fortunately, Solidarity Bridge works with some of the best cardiac surgeons in Bolivia who spend their lives doing just that, and know what to do when one of the pieces of this miraculous machine malfunctions – or two or three pieces, as in the case of two-year-old Esteban.
When Esteban was just one month old, he began to suffer periodic high fevers. In addition, his mother, Laura, was alarmed to see that his lips and skin turned blue and he became very short of breath when he cried. Laura’s strategy was to prevent him from crying at all cost by immediately giving him everything he needed and wanted. By the time Esteban turned two, with his symptoms persisting and Laura exhausted, it became clear that something more needed to be done. Suspecting a heart issue, a pediatrician referred Esteban to the Belga Clinic in Cochabamba for an echocardiogram test. The resulting diagnosis sounded devastating:
Obstructive subaortic stenosis
Bicuspid valve with double lesion
Large patent ductus arteriosis (an opening between the two heart chambers)
Significant pulmonary hypertension.
Obstructive subaortic stenosis refers to a blockage at the outlet of the left heart ventricle just below the aortic valve. The obstruction is caused by a membrane that forms made up of fibrous tissue. In a heart affected by this condition, the left ventricle has to work extra hard to pump blood through the obstruction, which may also lead to damage to the aortic valve.
To attempt to re-engineer such a heart through a procedure known as a subaortic resection, the surgeon must work on a still, quiet organ. A heart-lung bypass machine is needed to take the blood returning to the heart from the body and redirect it through a pump that will replace the oxygen in the blood. The blood is then returned to the body on the other side of the heart, allowing it to be still while under repair.
Laura, who works as a seamstress making about $130 dollars a month, was referred to the Solidarity Bridge Open Heart Surgery Program for help. Esteban’s surgery took place on November 18, 2013, at the Belga Clinic. This surgery was made possible through the financial support of Dharma Trading Company. Although subaortic resections have low rates of major complications, the subaortic membrane may in rare cases regrow. Esteban’s condition will therefore continue to be monitored by the same specialists who performed his surgery, Drs. Carlos Brockmann and Erika Pérez. Solidarity Bridge is proud to partner with miracle-makers like Doctors Brockmann and Pérez, as well as all of our generous donors and supporters without whom little Esteban and his Mom would both be left with broken hearts.