Saving Children … One Little Heart at a Time

Dortia Lopez

Dorita Lopez is just like any other 11 year old.  She enjoys sports, her friends, her family and school.  She is one of four children.

When Dorita was three, she started to become easily winded.  Her color grew pale, and she felt “sick.”  Her mother Maria took her to a doctor, who suggested she consult a cardiologist.
She made the long trip to the nearest city, and was told that a valve in Dorita’s heart was not working properly.  Apparently, a non-flexible tissue was attaching itself to Dorita’s valve, causing it to work improperly, and impeding blood flow.  To make things worse, the tissue was growing, and the cardiologist informed Maria that without surgical intervention, her child might only have a year to live.

To most, the answer would be simple – secure the surgery needed to save her child’s life.  To an indigent woman in Belize, who lives in a small cinder block home, surgery was not an option.  Instead, Maria did what millions of other mothers, fathers and siblings do when confronted with such news – they prayed.  And they cried.  With each new birthday, Dorita surprised the doctors.  Each new birthday saw her health deteriorate.  Each new birthday brought tears of fear that it would be her last.

A friend of Maria’s is a nurse, working in Belize.  Maria’s friend told her that some American doctors were coming to Belize, and that perhaps they could help Dorita.  Of course, Maria made the trip.  The doctors reviewed Dorita.  No promises were made, and Dorita and Maria were sent home.  They waited.  Ultimately, Maria received the news that doctors affiliated with Gift of Life of NJ would perform the surgery Dorita needed. Encouraged, Maria began to figure out how to raise the money she would need to get to the United States, and figure out where she would stay, etc.  Gift of Life stepped in, and told her that the airfare was paid for.  Further, that a kind American family would give them food, shelter and transportation to the Hospital.  It was too much.  Maria’s tears flowed again.

The pediatric cardiac surgery team at the Children’s Hospital of NJ performed Dorita’s surgery.  They managed to remove the obstructing tissue, restoring her blood flow.  Her prognosis is excellent, and she should be able to resume a normal life with her friends.  A day after surgery, Dorita was found gingerly walking the hall of her hospital wing.

Soon, she will be reunited with her friends, at her home, where a few straggling tears may be released – for good.