Gratitude and Apprehension as Sarah and Reynaldo Leave for the Salam Center


Reynaldo and Sarah at a relative’s house in Manila before leaving for the Salam Center in Sudan (AFP Photo/Jay Directo)

Siblings Sarah Joy Nilo and Reynaldo Nilo left from the Philippines yesterday for our Salam Center for Cardiac Surgery outside Khartoum, Sudan so that Reynaldo could receive crucial open-heart surgery. Before leaving, however, they spoke with AFP about the events that led up to this trip and what this surgery means after years of Reynaldo’s struggle with rheumatic heart disease.


Reynaldo at a relative’s house in Manila before leaving for the Salam Center in Sudan (AFP Photo/Jay Directo)

Like many patients who come to the Salam Center, Reynaldo’s heart has been weakened by rheumatic heart disease, which developed from strep throat left untreated due to a lack of access to simple antibiotics. Without surgical intervention, most die from the disease at a young age. Proper medical treatment was out of reach financially for their family, so Sarah did everything in her power to manage his symptoms and look for help.


Sarah cries as she speaks with AFP about her journey caring for her brother Reynaldo (AFP Photo/Jay Directo)

“We were always worried for him. I was scared he would succumb [to the disease], but I steeled myself, determined to show him that we were not giving up,” says Sarah. “I was desperate to get a job – any job, even as a domestic helper abroad – to pay for the surgery. But I realized it would take more than a lifetime to raise that amount.”

It was last year that Sarah saw the documentary Open Heartwhich tells the story of eight Rwandan children with rheumatic heart disease who receive open-heart surgery at the Salam Centerand saw a chance for her brother to receive the surgical care he needs. Now, after connecting with EMERGENCY through the producer of the film, Sarah and her brother have left for the Salam Center so that he can finally get the surgery he so desperately needs.

“I am extremely grateful to [EMERGENCY] for giving me the chance to have a longer life,” says Reynaldo.

“We are just so happy that this foundation [EMERGENCY] agreed to help us,” Sarah adds. “We were afraid we would lose him.”

Watch AFP’s video interview with Sarah and Reynaldo 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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