New York, NY- (September 24, 2002) – On Wednesday, September 23, 2002 NYU Medical Center’s Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Stephen B. Colvin, MD, performed life-saving heart surgery on Chika Ike, a 16 year-old girl from Nigeria. The child developed severe valvular heart disease as a result of contracting rheumatic fever when she was 7 years old. Born in Otolo – Nnewi, a remote village in Southeastern Nigeria, regional hospitals were unequipped to perform the life-saving heart surgery she needed to survive. Over the past year her condition became increasingly critical and an urgent appeal was made to the Nigerian community both here and abroad.
The child’s surgery was made possible through Project Kids Worldwide, a non-profit organization, co-founded by Dr. Colvin and Dennis Schwesinger, Director of the Cardiac and Vascular Program at NYU Medical Center. Colvin is recognized internationally for his work in congenital heart repair and has performed surgery on children from around the world.
Project Kids Worldwide collaborates with international social agencies in medically underserved regions, identifying poor children in need of medical care and bringing them to the United States for life-saving heart surgery or other complex health services.
The child’s plight came to the attention of Jacqueline Gavagan who lost her husband, Donald, Jr., a bond trader with Cantor Fitzgerald, on 9/11. Only six months prior to 9/11 Dr. Colvin performed heart surgery on the Gavagan’s son, Donald, III, then 2 ½, to correct a congenital heart defect. Seeking a way to honor her husband’s memory and help other children in need of heart surgery, she established the Donald Richard Gavagan Fund with Project Kids Worldwide. “I really want to make a difference,” says Jacqueline. “The only way I can do this is to sponsor a child.” Through Jacqueline’s efforts of raising money, she has helped to save Chika’s life.
Jacqueline Gavagan has created a legacy in her husband’s memory by saving children’s lives. Along with Project Kids Worldwide and NYU Medical Center, she will continue to collaborate and provide medical care for children with congenital and acquired heart disease from around the world, “one child at a time.”