By Swoan Parker

Beating on average 72 times a minute some two and a half billion times during a lifetime, the human heart fascinates me. At just 14 years old, Fabien Destine’s heart still has a long way to go. She was born with a hole in hers, but was one of the few lucky patients in Haiti to be accepted by the international medical mission to fix it.

Of the 40 hopeful Haitian children with serious heart problems waiting in line outside the Clinique Degand where the mission was based, only Fabien and ten others would be admitted for surgery. The others were deemed to have problems too complex to be fixed in Haiti. Some would be referred to other programs through Gift of Life International, and others would await the next mission. Many likely will never be helped.

I had learned of the week-long medical mission comprised of volunteer surgeons, doctors, technicians and nurses from France’s La Chaine de L’Espoir and the Montefiore Medical Center in New York. They would be coming to Haiti armed with equipment and supplies to perform lifesaving cardiac surgery on 11 children suffering from cardiovascular diseases (CVD). The Clinique Degand is the only facility in Haiti equipped for this type of surgery.

I once witnessed a kidney transplant, the most incredible thing I had ever seen. But now the opportunity to see surgery to repair a human heart just fascinated me.

Fabien, a shy teenager with a smile that lights up any room, was born with VSD, a hole between two chambers of her heart that allowed oxygenated blood to flow from the left chamber to the right, and back to her lungs. Her daily activities were limited because of this. She couldn’t run, play or enjoy many of the activities that her friends did. Even her one-hour walk to school and back was a challenge.