Heart Defects

One Little Heart: The Sound of Life

“Sometimes it takes just two hands to take away the fear and suffering…sometimes it takes a roomful of effort to end that suffering.” – Adi Roche

Adi Roche, being honored with the 2015 World of Children Alumni Award, recently shared one of the defining moments of her work with us – her first time in the operating theater.

Adi Roche in operating theater

One little heart

The little girl’s local Ukrainian doctors had deemed her to be inoperable. The CCI team politely argued that where there is life, there is hope and insisted that they would work on each child until the child’s last breath, if necessary. If the Ukrainian doctors prevailed, the children would be sent home to die. Because CCI convinced them to take a leap of faith, the little girl and 19 others would have a second chance at a healthy life, provided the surgeries were successful.

In the flurry of activity around these negotiations and leading up to the first little girl’s surgery, Adi found herself in the operating theater with the doctors. She decided to stay, having no idea what she was about to witness.

Adi Roche comforting a childThe little girl was four years old but weighed what one might expect for a six-month-old. Her tiny body had struggled to survive so long with a broken heart. Now she had to keep fighting – with a roomful of others to help her.

“At one point, I had this sense of time standing still. The only sound in the operating theater was of the child’s heartbeat, the sound of life, coming through the monitor. The moment the girl’s tiny little heart sat in the large hand of the surgeon perfectly illustrated our motto, ‘heartbeat by heartbeat.’ With the sound of the beating heart I stood in amazement knowing that the team had the power of ‘life and death’ in their hands. What a privilege! It was one of the most awesome, humbling moments that I will treasure to my last breath.”

The little girl, previously deemed inoperable, survived and recovered. Looking back on the experience reminds Adi that our capacity to give hope and change lives is boundless and that, in doing so, we change ourselves for the better.

6,000 children each year

More than 6,000 children are born with fatal heart defects in Ukraine each year, a region still dealing with the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Treating so-called “Cherynobyl Heart” is a race against time because unless these children have surgery within the first year or two of their lives, their chances of survival are very slight. The experts in Ukraine tell us that without surgical intervention, one in every three children born with these life-threatening heart defects die before they reach the age of six.

Adi Roche’s Chernobyl Children International is providing these incredibly vulnerable children with the gift of life. CCI’s Cardiac Missions fly volunteer medical professionals to Belarus and Ukraine to perform life-saving heart surgeries for these children before their time runs out. In addition, each cardiac mission provides equipment and training to local doctors, enabling them to continue performing surgeries year-round. Before the Cardiac Mission Program began, there were zero cardiac surgeries addressing this issue being performed in Eastern Ukraine. Thanks to the missions and resulting in-country cardiac program, CCI has saved the lives of over 1,000 children in the last 5 years.

Adi Roche is the recipient of the 2015 World of Children Alumni Award. To learn more about Adi’s work with Chernobyl Children International visit: worldofchildren.org/adiroche

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