Sarah and Reynaldo’s Journey to the Salam Center

Sarah Reynaldo

Today siblings Sarah Joy Nilo and Reynaldo Nilo left their home in the Philippines to travel over 5,000 miles to our Salam Center for Cardiac Surgery in Sudan so that Reynaldo can receive necessary cardiac surgery free of charge.

Their full journey began a year ago, however, when Sarah saw the 2013 Oscar Nominated short documentary Open Heart, which tells the story of eight Rwandan children who travel to the Salam Center outside of Khartoum, Sudan to receive open-heart surgery. The children featured in the film suffered from rheumatic heart disease, which develops from untreated childhood strep throat and is the same disease that had weakened the heart valves of Sarah’s 17-year-old brother Reynaldo. Sarah saw a chance for Reynaldo to receive the cardiac surgery he needed, which, in the Philippines, was cost prohibitive and inaccessible through charitable avenues. She contacted Kief Davidson, director of the film, explaining her brother’s need and asking for help. Kief brought in producer Cori Stern, who put her in touch with EMERGENCY.

Since its opening in 2007, the Salam Center has performed over 5,766 surgical interventions and has seen patients from 25 countries. Upon hearing about Reynaldo’s situation, EMERGENCY agreed to fund the necessary heart valve replacement surgery at the Center and pay for other medications that he needed for the rest of his life.

Despite the guarantee of the surgery itself, it took considerable effort and time to arrange the trip to Sudan. Our colleagues at EMERGENCY Hong Kong helped the two secure their travel.

Now Sarah and Reynaldo fly from Manilla to Istanbul to Khartoum. Reynaldo will receive the surgery he so desperately needs. The procedure and Reynaldo’s condition means it isn’t without risk, but he will be accompanied by Sarah, sister and constant advocate, through it all.


Open Heart is available to watch on HBO Go. View the trailer below:

To help more kids like Reynaldo receive the lifesaving cardiac surgery they need at our world class Salam Center for Cardiac Surgery

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