Jhon Pérez was born by cesarean around New Year’s 2014 when doctors detected acute fetal suffering. He was unable to breath on his own, so he was immediately admitted to the intermediate care ward where he remained dependent on oxygen support. His mother Graciela’s life had already been turned upside down by the pregnancy. Her partner disappeared as soon as she told him she was expecting. Graciela lives in very precarious conditions with her mother in two dilapidated rooms on the back of a lot owned by other relatives. She had been studying linguistics at the local university, but has now abandoned her studies to stay with Jhon almost full time in the clinic. Graciela leaves her baby only to rush to work where she makes around $170USD a month, enough to cover only her own food and bus fare and pay the light bill at home, with which she contributes to household expenses.
The baby was diagnosed with a particularly complex atrial septal defect (ASD), a type of congenital heart malformation that allows blood flow between the left and right atria of the heart due to an opening in the septum wall. His pulmonary veins did not drain properly, and he had persistent pulmonary hypertension, conditions that prevented him from breathing on his own. If Jhon had any hope of ever going home with his mother, he needed immediate highly-complex surgery.
Jhon underwent open heart surgery on February 26th at the Belga Clinic in Cochabamba. He is one of the smallest babies ever operated through the Solidarity Bridge Heart Program, but his condition was such that it could not be delayed any further. Fortunately the baby was stable and at a reasonable weight at the time of surgery, and responded well to the especially invasive procedure. He remained in the hospital for two more weeks following surgery, but was finally discharged on March 11th. The surgeons at El Belga and the local office of Solidarity Bridge continue to follow his evolution, confident that he has been given the best chance at a normal life.
We are especially grateful to Dharma Trading Co. and all of its personnel and clients who make possible the Solidity Bridge kid’s heart surgeries for Jhon and so many other Bolivian children who need help.