Until his recent surgery at NYU Medical Center, Deepak Loknauth could barely muster the energy to walk. When he was only five, rheumatic fever raged through his body and left him with a damaged mitral valve – one of the heart’s flap-like structures that prevents the backward flow of blood. The damage worsened over time. Deepak gradually lost his appetite. Chest pain, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, and poor sleep were his daily symptoms. Rheumatic fever and resulting valvular disease had adversely affected the boy’s health.
Deepak is from Guyana, one of the poorest countries in South America. Rheumatic fever, rare in the United States, is a common occurrence in Deepak’s world. Poverty is its underlying cause, a disease of deprivation that erodes the health status of the Guyanese population, and especially its children.
Although the boy’s father works hard as a civil servant, the family is barely getting by on a subsistence income. Adequate nutrition and medical care are simply beyond the reach of families like Deepak’s.
The little boy’s parents sought medical attention for their ailing son, but the local pediatric hospital was simply not equipped to treat his condition, much less offer a cure. But Deepak’s doctor had heard about the work of Project Kids Worldwide through a local organization. After helping the family make the connection with Project Kids Worldwide, Deepak and his mother were soon on their way to New York.
On October 19, Dr. Colvin performed minimally invasive surgery to repair the child’s mitral valve, and within days, the 9-year-old was well on the road to recovery, evidenced by the sparkle in his eyes and the mischief in his winning smile.
Deepak is eager to make up for lost time. Asked what he plans to do when he gets home, he names playing cricket and riding his bike his top two priorities. He wants to be a doctor when he grows up. The world is starting to open up for Deepak, and for his entire family.
An anonymous Guatemalan donor sponsors the medical needs of a Guyanese boy, who receives treatment from an American cardiovascular surgeon in New York. This scenario is typical of the transnational partnerships that are initiated and reinforced by Project Kids Worldwide.
Shira, Deepak’s mother, says her son’s Guatemalan sponsor will be her friend for life. The two women spent several poignant hours together at the Medical Center before Deepak’s surgery. In a rare moment of intimacy, Shira said to her benefactor, “You have the right to be the mother of my son.”
It truly takes a village to raise – and save – a child. Project Kids Worldwide is partnering with communities to save children’s lives, one boy and one girl at a time.