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A Trip I Will Never Forget

I had the opportunity to catch up with our medical team in Lima, Peru last month. I wasn't really sure what to expect, traveling alone, not speaking Spanish, and arriving at 10pm on a Saturday night.

Martina Pavanic, our scrub nurse, met me at the airport with a driver. The ride from the airport to the hotel was interesting to say the least. I was astonished to see how many young children and moms were on the streets. The kids were stopping every car they could, looking for handouts. I wondered if this happened throughout the city or if it was because we were near the airport. Martina told me this was pretty normal.

On Sunday morning the team was going to the hospital early to make rounds. I went with them. The light of early morning cast a gloomy shadow over everything. I could now see just how simply people of Lima lived. Many shack like dwellings. The hospital looked like a federal prison to me. Huge walls surrounded the complex with security everywhere.

I met Sebastian (pictured), his mom told me through a translator that he was recovering well from open-heart surgery and that he was going back home on Monday. After confirming that with the medical team, I asked if I could go with them. I wanted to experience first hand what a homecoming was like for these children we operate on.

At 5pm on Monday, it was time to go. I rode in a taxi with Sebastian and his mom. During the taxi ride I was again taken aback by the poverty of Lima. Honestly, I was nervous about where we were headed. It didn't seem very safe. Sebastian's mom assured me that everything would be fine.

We arrived at their home, a two-room dirt floor apartment. As we walked in, maybe 20 or so family members and friends greeted us. They were all crying, smiling, hugging Sebastian. I thought how much I wished the medical team could see this.

After about 15 minutes a birthday cake was brought out and a candle on it was lit. The candle wasn't a number, it was a question mark. I asked if it was Sebastian's birthday. No was the reply. I was told that the cake and candle represented the first day of Sebastian's life…his new life as a healthy little boy. His mom said from now on this was his birthday. I watched as the family talked, laughed and did things that families do when they get together. It was an experience I will never forget.

In the next few newsletters I will share some more of my experiences from Lima.

In closing, let me share a couple of things with you, our friends and supporters. 2001 will go down as a year that the world changed. It did. As we approach our holiday season and think about what gifts we will be giving, I ask that you remember one thing. Through your efforts and assistance, you have given the gift of life. Sebastian is one of 263 children that were saved and one of countless others that have been helped through the Foundation.

I know what Sebastian's family got for Christmas. They asked me to tell you thanks.

Happy Holidays.

Ken Van Vranken
Executive Director


Memphis Mardi Gras 2002!
Date: Saturday, February 2, 2002. The parade will begin at 7:00 p.m. through the streets of downtown Memphis and a fabulous ball will begin immediately afterwards. For all the details, go to
ICHF Annual Golf Tournament
Our Sixth Annual Golf Tournament has been rescheduled for Spring 2002. If you would like to reserve your place now, be a hole or team sponsor, please let us know. All proceeds will support the life saving medical missions our foundation provides. Price per team is $500. Price per player is $125.
International Children's Heart Foundation
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