“I run because long after my footprints fade away, maybe I will have inspired a few…” – Dean Karnazes
It has been said, “running requires more than placing one foot in front of the other,” but on that day, the life she carried in her smile sealed this idea within my heart forever. I watched her. Her small frame and hopeful eyes spoke volumes. She was about to take a leap of faith - a leap she didn’t know existed. She was going to run - with her whole heart.
At fourteen, her shoulders are rounded slightly forward in a stiffened position - evidence of an immobile life weighed down by imposed restrictions designed to keep her safe. She was born with Congenital Heart Disease (CHD), and she isn’t alone. Each year, 1 out of every 100 children will be born with CHD. Not all of them will have access to healthcare. She and her family know this reality far too well.
For years, they dance with the delicate balance of measured activity - each labored breath painting a young girl’s lips an unwanted shade of blue - an aching reminder that the hole in her heart continues to exist. There is a cure, but it’s out of reach. Surgery costs money, and though the family works hard, the revenue simply isn’t there.
Life goes on despite the diagnosis
Life goes on despite the diagnosis but it’s complicated. Somewhere, within the hurt of grief anticipated, rests the tender hope that help will arrive. Through the generous support of Healing Hearts Vietnam it does. The hole in her heart is repaired and follow up care is provided.
Seated at the heart of the most beautiful village in the center of Vietnam, gratitude offers the most precious of gifts. The family invites us into their thatched roof hut for a meal between friends. There is a bond that is present - an understanding of the importance of life protected. The family glows with a golden warmth and a sense of relief permeates the air. The young girl’s breath is no longer labored and her lips do not turn blue. She does not know it but she is about to see what her bandaged up heart will do. She is going to run.
Her eyes are wide with disbelief. She has lived her life knowing exertion could worsen her
condition and put her health at risk. I assure her she will be okay. Her heart is now different. “I’m a doctor, I will be right here beside you.” The sun is warm. I glance beyond the rice fields which seem to go on for miles and the greatness of the most magnificent mountain captures my eye. Like her future, it seems limitless. I begin to jog, leading the way. She follows my stride - one foot, then the other. I watch her worry melt away. I watch her run.
To date, Healing Hearts Vietnam has worked to bridge the gap between the cost of surgery and the totality of funds available to the patient from social insurance and private sources, to provide life-saving cardiac surgery to over 450 Vietnamese children, just like the girl who ran, at the incredibly low cost of roughly $750 per surgery - all possible because of the generous donors who support the mission through giving programs like Operation Heartbeat. Learn more HERE.