Rheumatic Fever in Sudan

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“Fatooma was discharged from our Salam Center for Cardiac Surgery in Sudan a few days ago. Before leaving the hospital, she took the box of colored pens and the sheets of paper that we’d given her, and carefully put them in her “suitcase”. The smile on her face was full of hope.

 

When she came to us, her heart was beating so fast that it seemed to want to leap out of her chest. It was too late to try any pharmacological treatment: she’d been suffering from a strep throat that had been gradually damaging her heart as well, to the extent of destroying the valves. All this was caused by a rheumatic fever – an illness that strikes approximately 5 per 100,000 children in the United States, and can easily be cured. But in these countries, in the grip of poverty and war, it affects up to 100 people in 100,000, especially children between the ages of 5 and 15. All this because nobody had given her antibiotics; and yet just a simple pill would have been enough to prevent all this damage.

 

Luckily, with a surgical operation we were able to repair her heart valve without having to replace it with a mechanical one. So Fatooma can now go back to her home in West Darfur, grow up healthy, go to school, and stay with her parents.”

 

–Daniela, EMERGENCY NGO cardiologist in Sudan

Manila to Khartoum for a Healthy Heart: The Journey of Sarah and Reynaldo

Sarah and Reynaldo Journey Graphic

The story of how siblings Sarah Joy Nilo and Reynaldo Nilo traveled from their home in the Philippines to our Salam Center for Cardiac Surgery in Khartoum, Sudan so that Reynaldo could undergo vital heart surgery has received attention across the globe. News sources from The Guardian to Yahoo News all picked up this story of perseverance and compassion. Now that Reynaldo has left our Salam Center after recovering from a successful surgery, we can look back at the long journey that led up to this life-saving procedure.

Their full journey began over a year ago 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.

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

Since Reynaldo was diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease, Sarah had done everything in her power to manage his symptoms and look for help. Without surgical intervention, however, most die from the disease at a young age. “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.”

Upon hearing about Reynaldo’s situation, EMERGENCY agreed to fund the necessary heart valve replacement surgery at the Salam 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.

On June 8, 2015, the siblings left from Manila to travel to Khartoum. Before leaving, they spoke with AFP about their apprehension, hopes, and gratitude surrounding the trip and the procedure. The two were traveling over 5,000 miles for a surgery that, due to the nature of the procedure and Renaldo’s condition, comes with some risk.

Sarah and Reynaldo arrived at the Salam Center that week in June and Reynaldo underwent open-heart surgery to replace his heart valves on June 16. The surgery was a success, and after a few days recovering in the ICU, Sarah was reunited with her brother.
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Reynaldo spent another month recovering at our state of the art Salam Center, which is designed to be place of serenity, complete with gardens and a multi-denominational meditation hall. Sarah, his constant advocate through it all, supported him along with our dedicated local and international staff. The pair spoke with AFP during the recovery: “I am feeling better, not like before. I feel stronger,” Reynaldo says. “I’m just very happy because I have a second chance in life.”

11745779_498420593656181_3405520039221070723_nOn July 19, Reynaldo was discharged from the hospital fully recovered with a healthy heart. Sarah sent word to EMERGENCY Hong Kong: “Finally after 1 month and 4 days my brother is now out of the hospital! Thank you to all doctors and nurses who took care of my brother very well and to all the staff of EMERGENCY! Thank you very much, thank you for my brother’s 2nd life.. may God bless you more.
Reynaldo, our family and me are very happy”

Thanks to Sarah’s persistence and advocacy, Reynaldo was able to get the surgery he needed free of charge at our Salam Center for Cardiac Surgery in Sudan. He returns home with a healthy heart, access to any followup medications needed, and a second chance at a healthy life.

High standard, free-of-charge surgical care makes the difference not only for the patients whose lives are saved, but also and in the lives of those who cherish them.

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

Reynaldo Leaves Salam Center with a Healthy Heart

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Our colleagues at EMERGENCY Hong Kong have received word from Sarah, who left with her brother Reynaldo from their home in the Philippines to travel to our Salam Center for Cardiac Surgery in Sudan so that he could receive vital open heart surgery free of charge. Reynaldo’s surgery was a success, he has completely recovered, and now he gets to leave the hospital with a healthy heart and another chance at life. Sarah writes: “Finally after 1 month and 4 days my brother is now out of the hospital! Thank you to all doctors and nurses who took care of my brother very well and to all the staff of EMERGENCY! Thank you very much, thank you for my brother’s 2nd life.. may God bless you more
Reynaldo, our family and me are very happy”

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

Reynaldo Recovers After Life-Saving Surgery at our Salam Center in Sudan

Sarah Reynaldo

Reynaldo recovers at our Salam Center for Cardiac Surgery in Khartoum, Sudan on July 1, 2015 (AFP Photo/Ashraf Shazly)

Last month 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 could receive necessary cardiac surgery free of charge. We are happy to share that the surgery was a success and Reynaldo is recovering happily under the care of our dedicated staff at the center!

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(AFP Photo/Ashraf Shazly)

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(AFP Photo/Ashraf Shazly)

Sarah and Reynaldo’s journey began a year ago 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.

“I’m just very happy because I have a second chance in life”

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.

Reynaldo underwent surgery on June 16.

“I’m just very happy because I have a second chance in life,” Reynaldo told AFP.

The procedure came with some risk, but Reynaldo was accompanied by Sarah, his sister and constant advocate, who will continue to support him through the recovery process.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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