Fact Sheet: Children’s Heart Project

PURPOSE: To provide life-saving surgery for children with congenital heart defects in countries where appropriate treatment is extremely limited or non-existent. 

  • Samaritan’s Purse identifies the children needing surgery, locates physicians and children’s hospitals in North America that are willing to donate their services, coordinates with host families and provides airfare. Samaritan’s Purse arranges for a medical transporter to accompany the children, their mothers and an interpreter to North America.
  • Children’s Heart Project also works in partnership with visiting teams from U.S. hospitals that provide surgical care for children in their home countries. In addition to providing surgery, these teams offer training and other technical support to equip local health care systems to provide care for the patients themselves.
  • The project has arranged life-saving heart surgery for more than 1,060 children and coordinates surgeries to take place in North America for children from Uganda, Mongolia and Bolivia.
  • Some 65 hospitals in North America have participated in Children’s Heart Project, including the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, North Carolina; Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota; C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida.

HISTORY: While working in Bosnia in 1997, Samaritan’s Purse found many children suffering from congenital heart defects who could not be adequately treated because the country’s ethnic war had damaged hospitals and equipment, and forced many doctors to flee. After contacting a hospital in the United States that agreed to donate medical care, Samaritan’s Purse arranged for the first child to undergo what is often routine heart surgery in the United States. Today the project has moved beyond Bosnia into Mongolia, Bolivia and Uganda, with plans to expand into other areas of the world where treatment is unavailable.

More than 1,060 children with life-threatening heart defects have received heart surgery, including these three:

Nomin Tumurkhuu of Mongolia had surgery in March 2014. The outlook for four-year-old Nomin was grim. A child of very poor parents, she was suffering from Tetralogy of Fallot, a rare congenital heart defect. Before surgery, Nomin needed someone to carry her because walking was such a challenge. Without treatment, doctors said Nomin would not have survived to adulthood, but the surgery she needed was not available in her home country. Now she has the opportunity to play and enjoy life like other children her age. What makes Nomin’s story special is that she was the 1,000th child to receive surgery through the efforts of Children’s Heart Project.

Edwin Nabasa of Uganda was three years old when his parents realized his health was deteriorating. Suffering from continuous coughing and rapid breathing, Edwin could not play for more than a few minutes without needing rest. Edwin’s doctor diagnosed him with a congenital heart defect. His parents were concerned about their son’s condition, but were also worried about the financial impact. The surgery he needed was not available in Uganda, and as poor farmers they could not afford to send him out of the country. In desperation, they took him to a witch doctor who performed his own surgery—cutting open Edwin’s chest and packing it with an herbal concoction. Through Samaritan’s Purse’s work in Uganda, he was added to the Children’s Heart Project waiting list and was accepted to receive life-saving heart surgery at a hospital in Florida in 2012. Edwin’s surgery was successful, and he is now a healthy, energetic little boy.

Luis Mendoza desperately wanted to be healthy and have a family like many of the other boys he knew. But unfortunately, his mother left him when he was two years old and his father was unable to care for him. While bouncing between orphanages, Luis was also struggling with a heart defect called Ventricular Septal Defect. This condition made him weak, easily exhausted by everyday tasks and slowed his growth. He needed surgery to close the hole in the bottom of his heart, but the procedure was not available in his home country of Bolivia. In 2013, Luis was brought to the U.S. by the Children’s Heart Project, where he received the surgery he needed to correct his condition. He is now working at a metal-cutting factory and attending high school. He is strong and healthy and has plans to graduate in the next year.  

Samaritan’s Purse is an international Christian relief and evangelism organization, based in Boone, North Carolina, that responds to the physical and spiritual needs of individuals in crisis situations—especially in locations where few others are working. Samaritan’s Purse works in more than 100 countries to provide aid in the name of Jesus Christ to victims of war, disease, disaster, poverty, famine and persecution. For more information, please visit samaritanspurse.org.