Romina Hurtado, age 12, was born with a set of congenital heart defects including patent ductus arteriosus (the failure of normal closure of the connection present at birth between the aorta and the lung) and a type of progressive aortic valve obstruction known as subvalvular aortic stenosis. She underwent her first surgery as an infant to close the ductus arteriosus and to reduce the obstruction. The obstruction returned, requiring a second surgery two years later. But as Romina grew, the obstruction continued to progress. While at first glance she appears to be a normal adolescent, she is unable to participate in gym class or dance or play sports with her friends. Any physical activity triggers heart palpitations, and her family has been warned that if Romina does not receive surgery to definitively correct the condition, including a prosthetic heart valve, her life is at imminent risk.
Romina’s father, Aldo, is a carpenter, making roughly 1,800 Bolivianos or about $260 USD per month. Her mother Rilma is unable to work outside the home in order to take care of her daughter. They are still paying off the loans taken out to pay Romina’s earlier interventions. Their two older sons, ages 15 and 17, understand the family’s precarious economic situation given the monthly loan payments to the bank. They ask for little from their parents and do their best to help care for their sister, while also working to finish school so they can have a better future for themselves.
Rilma described their situation to the social worker at the Puente de Solidaridad office in Cochabamba, Bolivia:
When [the doctor] told us my little girl needed another surgery, we didn’t know what to do. I asked God with all my faith to help us because I could see no way out. We can’t take out another loan from the bank. … We hope you can help us so that Romina can live a life alongside other children her age.
In May 2012 at the Belga Clinic in Cochabamba, Romina underwent surgical resection of her subaortic obstruction, and her aortic valve was replaced with a mechanical prosthetic. This surgery was made possible through the financial support of Dharma Trading Co. The family would never have been able to pay for the replacement valve itself or the complex surgery, which together have given their daughter the opportunity to live an almost-normal life, going to school and enjoying her adolescence alongside her peers. They can now concentrate on finishing payment of the previous loans and then focus on supporting the education and hopefully better futures for their three children. They are very grateful to Puente de Solidaridad and the generous donors who have made such a huge positive impact on their lives.