By Debra Parrish
Board Member, Surgical Team Leader
It’s amazing what can happen when you just put your arm around someone. It can lead to “fixing a broken heart.”
I first met William in Banica during a surgical team trip. Walking to and from the Banica hospital every day, I would encounter William and some of his seven siblings. I passed out Tootsie roll pops to them. Somehow, this little boy made a big impression on me.
The next year when I returned, William was at the side of the road and remembered me as the “Tootsie Roll Pop Lady.” I wanted to get a photo of William and me. I bent down beside him and when I put my arm around him I felt a very profound heart murmur. I had our surgeons look at him. They agreed that he had some major heart defects.
Not wanting William to die at an early age, I decided to try to arrange for the help he needed. It took eight months to make the arrangements but William and his mother arrived in the U.S and spent thirty-one days at Ronald McDonald house in Washington, a few miles from the hospital where William would be treated for his heart problems.
This only happened thanks to the efforts of many people and Medical Missionaries. Volunteers took care of the passport and VISA paperwork, served as translators, donated clothes, and provided hospitality to William and his mother. American Airlines provided free tickets. The Larry King Heart Foundation and Children’s Hospital underwrote the hospital bills. The cardiologist and surgeon donated their services.
William had heart surgery and recovered quickly. If not for the scar on his chest, you would never guess he even had surgery. After several post-operative visits, William was given the green light to resume a normal life and he and his mother returned home.
Footnote: Each subsequent year when Debra returned on surgical teams, she would try to find William to check on his progress. She found him in February 2010, and was happy to see he is doing great, and took this photo with him.