It is our slogan and the basis of our foundation and we have it on business cards, letterhead and emails, but recently we had the opportunity to see the beauty of the slogan in action. We ( and by that I do not mean the royal we...I mean we - us - the Veloo Foundation and YOU!!) had a chance to make the biggest difference possible to a child. We helped save his life.
Meet Anand, a lovely little Mongolian boy who was born with a number of seriously fatal cardiac birth defects. He was diagnosed at 28 days of age by a visiting Japanese cardiac surgeon who told Anand's parents the bad news that without surgery he would not survive, and (here's the kicker) as Mongolia does not have a neo-natal cardiac intensive care unit he would be unable to receive the surgery in Mongolia.
Imagine hearing that your child needs surgery that is readily available ( and not that complicated they tell me!) in the developed world but, because of where you live he can't have it. And will die. Anand's mother was not going to accept that and starting from his initial diagnosis she began her search to find someone who would pay for him to go overseas for surgery. It didn't really matter where - almost anywhere could correct his problems. She went from agency to agency and again and again was told that his diagnosis was too severe, that it didn't meet the criteria for assistance, that they wouldn't send him. Fortunately, she eventually came across MedPro Vision Foundation - a local NGO set up as a charitable branch of a new hospital development. This NGO has just started and when the doctors who work there heard about Anand they immediately set about finding someone who would fund the $15,000.00 USD that it would take to send Anand along with his mother and a local doctor to India for surgery. And yes, you read that correctly....$15,000.00 for air tickets, hotel stays, hospital stay, surgery, after care, food etc...everything. All of it. The life of a child - $15,000.00.
When I heard about it I knew that we were going to help even though the foundation doesn't really "do" medical. I didn't really ask too many questions - wouldn't have understood the answers anyway - I just knew that if the doctor said he could survive the trip and the surgery, he was going. I initially heard about Anand from an email on March 4th from the President of IWAM who had been approached by Med Pro Vision Foundation about possibly donating some money. They had attached an information sheet about Anand including his diagnosis and prognosis which included the chilling words - Anand will likely not be strong enough to survive surgery in 3 weeks. His oh-so-slightly wonky clock which had been ticking ominously since birth was nearly ticked out. Three weeks. $15,000.00 and he's fine. Or...Three weeks, and he's dead. Pretty much a no-brainer.
So, two days after initially hearing about Anand, along with the president of IWAM (International Women's Association) and a few concerned private citizens ( including a pediatric nurse and a couple of surgical nurses!) interested in helping, it was off to the hospital to meet Anand, his mom and the doctor. It was the toughest thing any of us had ever done. Sitting across the room from a woman whose baby effectively has a death sentence if you don't help --- and knowing as we walked in that she did not know that help was a foregone conclusion.
Baby Anand, it turns out, is quite a character. And..he loved Jacob! I guess as the only two guys in a room full of women they kind of had to stick together! They certainly had each other laughing!!
And even though he had been struggling with increasing weakness as his growth put more of a strain on his heart, hospitalizations for pneumonia and the like and sometimes getting along with only 70% oxygen saturation, it was pretty clear that Anand, other than a seriously screwed up heart, was just fine. And so, twenty minutes or so into the meeting and after a hurried "this is a no brainer" agreement between us all, we got to ask that wonderful question..."So, if we get the money to you tomorrow, when will you be ready to head to India?"
There were not a lot of dry eyes in the room - including the two doctors Saruul and Solongo from the MedPro Vision Foundation. Anand was their most serious and urgent case and the relief they felt at the offer to fully fund the trip and his surgery was overwhelming. And these girls don't fool around either. No sooner had the deal been done than they went to work on making it happen.
We met Anand at the hospital on Wednesday. Thursday was the IWAM board meeting and IWAM committed to donating 5,000,000 tugrugs, private donors committed to 5,000,000 tugrugs and the Veloo Foundation picked up the balance...a little over 6,000,000 tugrugs. MedPro Vision had the money Thursday afternoon. The hospital administrator agreed to let the head of Pediatric Cardiology ( Anand's doctor) leave to accompany him on short notice and so, in an exquisite alignment of the universe, on Saturday, Anand was off to India.
He arrived on Sunday and was admitted to Apollo hospital in Chennai where he was subjected to a whole battery of tests which showed that he was only suffering from two of the three problems he had been diagnosed with and so the whole repair could be done in one fell swoop - only one operation ... not one now and another one in six months as had been feared. He spent 9 days in this wonderfully modern hospital ( I've been promised pictures of his time there ...as soon as I get them I'll add them on so you can all get a see the beaming doctors who cared for him) as every thing was prepared for his surgery and on March 18th, he underwent 5 hours of surgery which saved his life. A few hours after surgery he was off of oxygen and 5 days later he was out of intensive care. Ten days after that he and his mom were back on an airplane heading home.
He is back in Mongolia now with his Mom and Dad. He arrived last Monday after a speedy and thorough recovery from the surgery and sporting a rather spiffy scar from belly button to the top of his sternum.
And guess what he arrived home just in time for?
Yup - his first birthday!! A particularly poignant celebration because of its uncertainty only a month previous. When I realized it was his birthday, I asked the MedPro Vision people if it would be ok if I got him gift, and if so, what did he really need? The answer was a lovely "Of course you can get him a gift!" and like boys everywhere , ONE YEAR OLD (Hooray!!) Anand loves cars! What better to celebrate this gift of a birthday with than a Steve McQueen cake ...and..
...a car of his very own!
I couldn't resist it - this little push car has " Happy World" written across the back. Happy indeed.
And it was so beautiful to see a happy and healthy Anand with his Dad...although it turns out that babies are babies and his current biggest gripe is that he's cutting some molars and is a bit fussy with it!
Wonderful moment indeed. That little boy is truly loved...and his mother tells me his scar will be a reminder to him each day that he's going to grow up and be a doctor.
I suspect he might have something to say about it...
...like - How do I know what I am going to be? I'm just a kid! Time will tell ..and, as he is growing, he will be surrounded by his lovely family...and a whole cadre of new "aunties" and "uncles" all of whom have a special place in their heart for this tough little survivor...and I am certainly one of them.
Hello, my name is Julie and I am the Vice-President of the Veloo Foundation. Welcome to the Blog, where I will post new activities and events going on with the foundation. Enjoy!