Honoree Spotlight

Long Lives and Happy Hearts in Russia

2012 Honoree Dr. Nilas Young and his organization are giving children with congenital heart defects a second chance at life.

Young Russian patient with congenital heart defect

Every year, 1.3 million babies are born with a congenital heart defect, the most common birth defect in the world. Most heart defects are treatable; in the U.S., 95% of children are successfully treated. Globally, however, less than 15% of children have access to cardiac care.

In 1989, millions of Russian children did not have access to basic cardiac care. Access to specialized cardiac treatment and surgery was even more limited, especially because much of the medical equipment in Russian hospitals was outdated or non-functioning, and few physicians were trained to perform open heart surgery on children. This means that most children born with heart defects in Russia never received treatment, severely limiting their chance to have long, healthy lives.

One cardiothoracic surgeon in Oakland, California — Dr. Nilas Young — was deeply affected by this problem. He and his colleagues were receiving hundreds of letters from parents in Russia, begging them to help their critically-ill children. He decided to found Heart to Heart International Children’s Medical Alliance to teach physicians in Russia how to perform open heart surgery on children.

Dr. Young and a young patient in Russia

Dr. Young recently returned from a visit to Rostov-on-Don, a port city in the south of Russia. About 350 babies in that region are born with life-threatening heart defects every year. Though they desperately wanted to save the lives of these children, the Rostov-on-Don Regional Cardiac Center frequently had to turn the children and their families away because of lack of knowledge. After receiving the 2012 World of Children Health Award last October, Dr. Young will now expand his program. With the grant funds he received from the World of Children, Dr. Young is bringing Russian physicians to the U.S., where they will learn advanced patient care in state-of-the-art medical centers.

Since partnering with Dr. Young and his organization, the Center has seen amazing progress. The local team is learning to diagnose and treat much more complex defects than it ever could before and more and more children have access to successful operations.

KirillOne of those children was 10-year-old Kirill, who was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect at birth. His condition, Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF), is common, but difficult to repair. Without treatment, Kirill had little chance of seeing his 20th birthday. On October 5, the Rostov-on-Don Regional Cardiac Center operated jointly with Dr. Young’s team. Two weeks later, Kirill was discharged from the hospital in time to celebrate his eleventh birthday at home with his family.

This year, the World of Children Health Award will help children like Kirill get a second chance at a long, healthy life, thanks to the collaboration of Dr. Young, his team and the hard-working surgeons in Russia.

This is the type of extraordinary accomplishments our donors support, and the World of Children is proud to stand alongside Dr. Young and advance his mission.

Dr. Young and baby with congenital heart defect
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