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Mending a Broken Heart

RC Metro Iloilo

Almost a hundred indigent children and infants have been given a new lease in life in Western Visayas, thanks to the “Mend a Broken Heart” program of the Rotary Club of Metro Iloilo (RCMI) that provides free heart surgery.

This is the club’s flagship project that started in 2006 under Past President Ronnel Quiñon. Year after year since then, about ten or so children who were born with Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) had their defective hearts mended.

PDA is a congenital condition where the fetal blood vessel does not close soon after birth (as it normally should). As it remains open, there is an irregular transmission of blood between the aorta and the pulmonary artery resulting in persistent respiratory problems such as hypoxia or the deprivation of adequate oxygen supply.

Children with PDA are characterized as weak, inactive, underweight, easily fatigued, and are susceptible to cough or pneumonia. It can be fatal as it may weaken heart muscles and cause heart failure. PDA is not uncommon especially in premature babies and so many indigent patients wait in line to avail of the surgery.

Although the project was clearly impactful, in 2010, it was temporarily shelved due to lack of funds. The following Rotary year however, seeing their growing list of children who needed immediate surgery, Past President Ray Celis and Rotarian Leo Malunes, who is a cardiovascular surgeon, revived the project through funds from Past District Governor Edgar Sy for two beneficiaries.

The procedure to correct PDA is not cheap. A simple ligation ranges between Php 200,000 to 300,000 per patient to cover hospital accommodation, cardiac cath lab, supplies, medicine, doctors’ fees, among others. A trans-catheter procedure would even cost more.

So RCMI partnered with Medical City-Iloilo and with this collaboration, the pediatric cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons and anesthesiologists rendered their services pro bono, thereby reducing the surgical procedure at an average of P50,000 to cover other costs such as supplies and medicines. The cost may vary though depending on the complexity of the case.

To ensure the project’s continuity, RCMI looked for international partners and in 2012, Past President Philip Co, the Rotary Club of Palo Alto of District 5170 in California, USA responded to fund eight children for immediate surgery. Soon, donations from other individuals who were touched by the children’s condition poured in, and by the end of the year, eleven patients were treated.

That same year, RCMI’s efforts were recognized by the district and the club was the Best Community Service Project.

In RY 2013-2014, RCMI tapped another international partner, the Rotary Club of Itako, of District 2820 in Japan. Together, the two clubs applied and were awarded a Matching Grant from Rotary International to accommodate the long list of beneficiaries whose lives were at stake unless they get operated on.

It was ambitious but ultimately very rewarding as 61 children, who would otherwise have a bleak future and shorter life span, were provided opportunities to lead better and longer lives.

In 2018, as more hearts were touched, 17 children were treated while ten more remained in the waiting list for their turn to be treated.

Governor Elect, John Michael “Kano” Ng said this is one club project that is close to the members’ hearts and “we work hard to make sure no child is left behind for a chance to live longer.”

“This project is priceless. In the real sense of the phrase, this is definitely life changing,” Kano said. Our wish is to mend all hearts but we can only accommodate as much as our funds would allow us, he said, adding that “the more funds we have, the more children we can help.”

“Help me mend my broken heart and let me live again,” is a line from a popular song with the same title. It’s the same cry that children in their PDA waitlist croon often, hoping it will touch the heart of someone else.

If you want to help children with PDA, please click donate button below.

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