Three-year-old Roger is the middle child of Pedro and Maria Carmen, a young Quechua-speaking family living in a precarious two-room home in a rural area of the state of Cochabamba, Bolivia. Roger had always been sickly, but the family was usually focused on its day-to-day survival. A state-mandated visit to the pediatric clinic at the local hospital led to Roger’s diagnosis with a type of congenital heart defect known as pulmonary stenosis.
The pulmonary valve, located between the right heart ventricle and the pulmonary artery, is designed to function as a one-way door, allowing blood to flow into the pulmonary artery. Roger presented a condition called supravalvar pulmonary stenosis, in which the artery just above the pulmonary valve is narrowed. The tiny flaps that form the “one-way door” were also malformed. This was creating a dangerous imbalance of blood flow, leading to additional heart and lung complications.
When hearing of her son’s condition, Maria Carmen’s first inclination was to let nature take its course. Her family suffered just to put food on the table. She had her first child when she was 16, and she and Pedro had no education or marketable skills. Pedro worked as an assistant bricklayer when he could find work, and they lived in overcrowded conditions with Pedro’s mother in a makeshift construction with no doors, windows, or bathroom.
A Catholic Sister who works at the Cuschieri Hospital, Sister Cecilia, offered to help the family. She accompanied them to the Cochabamba office of PuenteSol, and continued to walk them through the process to get Roger his surgery, which took place on June 4th at Clínica Belga in Cochabamba. The skilled hands of Dr. Carlos Brockman were able to reconstruct the defective arteries and valves to better perform their intended tasks and improve Roger’s heart and lung function. Roger was discharged on June 11th, and is now back home with his family.