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Valery's HeartGift

Valery's HeartGift

In partnership with HeartGift Louisiana, 8-month-old Honduras native Valery received lifesaving heart surgery at Children’s Hospital, recovering at the home of Children’s Hospital CEO John Nickens IV.

CHD Affects 1 in 100 Children

One in every 100 children is born with some form of Congenital Heart Disease. In the United States pediatric heart care is provided through the Medicaid system and children receive the care they need regardless of their ability to pay.

In 93% of the world, however, there is simply no access to care. The HeartGift Foundation, headquartered in Austin, Texas with additional chapters in Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, and San Antonio, brings children from around the world to the United States for surgery to correct life threatening heart defects. HeartGift has served over 370 patients throughout all its chapters.

Valery’s New Beginning

Every HeartGift child has a unique story. Valery was born premature and had a blood vessel called "ductus arteriosus or PDA", that should otherwise close normally after birth, still wide open. As a result, there was increased blood flow into the left side of Valery’s heart. This caused her to use all the calories from her diet to accommodate for the increased work on her heart and not gain any significant weight. Therefore, she was small for her age and undernourished when she arrived to New Orleans from Honduras.

Based on her anatomy, a minimally invasive catheter procedure was attempted, but the device was removed after it was noted to be improperly positioned. Valery then underwent surgical ligation of the patent ductus arteriosus through a small incision on the side of her chest and was discharged home after 48 hours.

“Valery recovered well after the procedure and demonstrated decent weight gain on her follow up clinic visit,” said Cardiologist Kiran Mallula, MD. “She was feeding well and appeared very happy and content.”

“This changed a human life that was most likely on the road to death, and now with this lifesaving care, Valery will thrive,” said John R. Nickens IV, President and Chief Executive Officer at Children’s Hospital. “Wow, what a privilege.”

Grateful Hearts

Valery’s mother, Heidy will remember this journey as a great adventure in New Orleans where Valery’s heart was renewed. She will be forever grateful for the care and kindness received by the HeartGift program, the providers at Children’s Hospital, and to John and Marye Nickens who opened their home and their hearts as a host family for HeartGift.

So far, more than 50 children, like Valery, have received lifesaving surgery thanks to donations of funds and the time and skill of surgeons at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans. Support from individuals, families and corporations make these vital surgeries possible.

“It is remarkable to watch people come together in such incredible ways to help a child in need,” said Nickens. “I’m a proud host of this incredible mother and daughter, I’m a proud New Orleanian, and I’m a proud CEO of this hospital.”

The Heart Center at Children's Hospital provides comprehensive cardiac care for babies, children and adolescents. From our dedicated Cardiac ICU to our state-of-the-art Cathertization Lab, Children's Hospital has young heart patients covered. Learn more about our Heart Center.