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  Ugandan Children Receive Life-Saving Treatment for Heart Defects
February 23, 2009

Through partnership with Samaritan’s Purse and Gift of Life, patients travel to United States

For Immediate Release: February 23, 2008

Washington, DC—On February 12, two Ugandan children received life-saving procedures at Children’s National Medical Center to correct severe heart defects. Without cardiac surgery, the young boys would likely have died before adulthood, but they now have a normal life expectancy.

As part of the Phase I of a global initiative to bring attention to the health needs of Ugandan children, 15-month-old Daniel Kamaramasu and 2 ½-year-old Allan Wassanyi traveled 5,000 miles to receive treatment unavailable at home. Daniel, who was born with a blocked valve between his heart and lungs, was successfully treated using a cardiac catheterization balloon procedure by Michael Slack, MD. Allan, who had a very large hole in his heart, underwent successful open heart surgery by Richard Jonas, MD.

The boys came to Children’s National through a partnership with international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, Gift of Life International (GOLI), and other organizations. Through this partnership, pediatric cardiologist Craig Sable, MD has led seven medical missions to Uganda in an effort to provide treatment for patients and ultimately build a sustainable cardiac surgery program in Uganda. More than 100 children have received life-saving treatment since the program began in 2003.

“With the dedication of organizations like Samaritan’s Purse and Gift of Life, patients from around the world have access to the expert pediatric care that is available to children in the United States,” said Dr. Sable. Added Cindy Bonsall, director of Samaritan’s Purse’s Children’s Heart Project: “We’re glad this partnership has enabled so many Ugandan children to receive the cardiac care they deserve. We’re glad they will be returning home soon with a second chance at life.”

A key component of the missions to Uganda has been training Ugandan surgeons. Through training provided by Dr. Sable and colleagues, Ugandan surgeons are now on the verge of doing simple cardiac procedures on their own. Dr. Sable directs the Telemedicine Program at Children’s National, which provides training and educational opportunities around the world.

The groups have joined forces to implement “Our Hearts Are In Uganda,” which will focus all of GOLI’s efforts in Uganda. The first phase of the program included treatment for Daniel, Allan, and three other children at hospitals in the United States. The next phase will bring 25 more Ugandan children to hospitals throughout the world to receive life-saving treatment for heart defects.

“We have saved the lives of more than 10,000 children, and through this partnership, we hope to expand our reach, to ultimately create a program in Uganda to ensure that all the children have access to the medical care they need,” said Lou del Rosario, vice chairman of GOL District 7230, who was instrumental in raising funds for Allan’s operation.

MEDIA NOTE: The patients will be returning to Children’s National for a farewell visit on Tuesday, February 24. The patients and Dr. Craig Sable will be available for interviews. Contact Emily Dammeyer or Jenn Leischer at 202-476-4500.
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About Children’s National Medical Center
Children's National Medical Center, located in Washington, DC, is a proven leader in the development of innovative new treatments for childhood illness and injury. Children’s has been serving the nation's children for more than 135 years. Children’s National is proudly ranked among the best pediatric hospitals in America by US News & World Report and the Leapfrog Group. For more information, visit www.childrensnational.org.

About Samaritan’s Purse
Samaritan's Purse identifies children needing life-saving heart treatment through its' Children's Heart Project. The international relief organization identifies children overseas who need heart surgery, matches them with hospitals and specialists willing to donate their time and services, places them with a local host family, and arranges international travel and an interpreter. More than 550 children from nine countries have been brought to North America for medical and surgical care not available in their home countries.

About Gift of Life International
Gift of Life is a Rotary based program in more than 50 Rotary Clubs and Districts on 6 continents. GOLI aims to save as many children’s lives as possible by providing life saving open heart surgery to children from infancy to 18 years of age with congenital heart defects. GOLI has been responsible for saving more than 10,000 lives during the past 33 years.