Luis Melo

Ten-year-old Luis, his parents and four older sisters live in the town of Yacuiba in southern Bolivia, where his father Marcelino works as a welder. As the youngest child and only son, Luis holds a special place in the family.

Luis appeared as healthy and active as the other boys in his class until he began to fall behind in size and stamina late last year. In early 2015, he was treated for anemia. But three months later he came down with pneumonia, and in May he began to complain of chest pain. The local doctors thought the problem was in his liver, but they lacked the equipment for further diagnosis so they referred Luis to Santa Cruz for specialized tests at the public Children’s Hospital.

The pediatric heart specialists at the Children’s Hospital discovered that Luis’ illness was in fact a rare case of coarctation of the aorta. In other words, the major artery leading away from Luis’ heart was too narrow at an important juncture. Since the aorta carries blood toward the abdomen and legs, vital supply to the lower extremities was affected. In addition, the condition places stress on the heart’s left ventricle, forcing it to work harder to push blood through the aorta.

On August 3, 2015, two of Solidarity Bridge’s highly skilled heart surgery partners, Dr. Arturo Barrientos and Dr. Roberto Pacheco, collaborated to perform a coarectomy, inserting an 11 mm hemashield tube graft to correct the arterial malformation. Luis came through surgery very well, and was discharged just four days later. He is now home and back in school, where he is completing fifth grade.

This is the first time that this type of surgery is performed at a public pediatric hospital in Bolivia. It was achieved thanks to the joint efforts of multiple local and international partners and the support of donors such as Isaac and Renee Goff to establish the new facilities at the Santa Cruz Children’s Hospital. The joy experienced in Luis’ family when they welcomed their beautiful son and brother home again makes all those efforts worth it

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