HeartGift-a nonprofit in Dallas to restore health of children’s heart

DALLAS (TIP): Haven’t heard of HeartGift Foundation? You must know then. Since 2000, more than 200 children from 28 countries have received lifesaving heart surgery, courtesy HeartGift Foundation. The relatively new do-gooder HeartGift Foundation, a nonprofit agency based in Austin with five chapters, is now in Dallas. HeartGift’s mission is to provide heart surgery to disadvantaged children living in developing countries where specialized medical treatment is scarce or nonexistent. The Dallas chapter handled four patients in 2013 and will be able to handle 12 per year.

All medical work here is done at Children’s Medical Center, and HeartGift Dallas’ patients benefit from the generosity of the medical staff, such as pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons Dr. Joseph Forbess, Dr.Kristine Guleserian and Dr. Vinod Sebastian, who donate their skills to repair all HeartGift children’s hearts during their stays in Dallas. In Dallas, HeartGift Dallas works on a contract with Children’s and UT Southwestern that allows HeartGift to save the lives of 12 children a year at a low, flat cost. The HeartGift chapters bring children in for about one month. The child and a family member, typically the mother, stay with a volunteer host family. The child spends about one week in the hospital receiving heart surgery. The agency raises money to pay the partnering children’s hospitals $15,000 to help offset costs of surgery.

Professional medical services are donated. Through reduced hospital charges and donated medical services, every donated dollar provides $13 of value. The mortality rate for the surgeries is 2 percent. Each HeartGift chapter has a local board of directors, and each hospital appoints a HeartGift Medical Selection Committee to review all cases referred to the program. The local HeartGift staff also recruits and trains a host community for the child. Some host families are drawn to the role because they share the same cultural background as HeartGift patients or because their own children have been through open-heart surgery. A host community is also recruited to help make the job of the host family easier. The Episcopal School of Dallas was the host community for a young patient named Marvin from Christmas Island.

Community service director Christi Morrow got her students excited about giving back. They treated Marvin to lunches at the school, football games, pep rallies, meals delivered to the host home and lots of love. The First United Methodist Church in Frisco was the host community of Tabiria, also from Christmas Island. They hosted her and her mother in a congregation member’s home and showered them with love, meals, outings, transportation and visits at the hospital. To donate to HeartGift Dallas, make checks payable to HeartGift and specify “Dallas Chapter” in the memo line. Mail to HeartGift Dallas, 11700 Preston Road, Suite 660 #394, Dallas, TX 75230. You can donate online at heartgift.org. To get involved or learn more about the agency, call executive director Barbara Johnson at 817-773-7662 or email her at bjohnson@heartgift.org.

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