Though it happened over 30 years ago, the word Chernobyl still has the power to conjure up images of devastation and deadly quiet expanses of land. Its effects are still present today. Every year, over 6,000 children are born with heart defects in Ukraine. The genetic defect is commonly known as ‘Chernobyl Heart’ because it is intricately tied to the nuclear accident that happened decades before their birth. More than half of these children never receive heart surgery because of lack of facilities and training, putting their life at risk.
There are many other children outside of Ukraine who also suffer from congenital heart defects, and do not have access to high quality medical facilities or highly-trained surgeons. 11-month-old Ajnur was born with a heart defect, and she urgently needed surgery to survive. Unfortunately, adequate surgeons and care were not readily available in her home country of Azerbaijan. Her mother, determined to find help, heard about Chernobyl Children International, a program started by Honoree Adi Roche that provides free surgery for children with Chernobyl Heart and other congenital heart defects. To ensure children can get the medical help they need, Chernobyl Children hosts regular, two-week “medical missions” with highly-trained cardiac surgeons. The visiting surgeons perform surgeries for children in desperate need of help, and also help upskill local cardiac surgeons so they can perform more complex surgeries for children in the future.
Ajnur’s mother decided to make the long journey from Azerbaijan to Kharkiv, Ukraine, to get help from Chernobyl Children. She arrived just in time. Realizing that Ajnur was in critical condition, Chernobyl Children’s medical team moved fast, placing Ajnur at the top of the list to receive surgery.
Soon, Ajnur was out of the operation room, doing much better, but still with a long recovery to go. Every day and night, her mother slept by her side, thankful for the second chance of life given to her young daughter.
Ajnur is just one of 35 children who received heart surgery in 2016, thanks to your support. To unlock the future for even more children in 2017, donate here.