Together, helping 12 hearts to beat

Written by Betsy Station

Healthy kids are in constant motion: they jump, climb, and race to the corner before we can say “go!” But for kids with congenital heart problems, childhood is much more complicated.

As a baby, Skarleth couldn’t nurse without shortness of breath. By age eight, Andrés had already undergone several heart surgeries. Iris, age 12, grew tired easily when walking to school, and she suffered from chest pain and tachycardia.

Poverty has further complicated the lives of these Bolivian children. Although their parents knew their kids needed corrective surgery, none had the financial resources to cover the cost. That’s why a recent partnership involving Solidarity Bridge in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, made such a difference.

“Helping a Heart to Beat,” a surgical campaign made possible by the coordinated effort of five distinct organizations, took place April 17-19 at the Incor Hospital in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, in conjunction with the annual Congress of the Latin American Society of Interventional Cardiology (SOLACI). The campaign served 12 children who suffered from Patent Ductus Arteriosus, the failure of a fetal blood vessel to close naturally upon birth.

Most of the children were treated through a high-tech procedure using cardiac catheterization, a less invasive technique than the open heart surgery that was previously the only option for cases like theirs in Bolivia. The Incor Clinic invited a team of experts in this novel procedure, which uses implantable devices hand manufactured in Bolivia. The undertaking was a true example of solidarity. Expenses and logistical planning of the operations for the 12 patients from towns and cities throughout the country were divided among the supporting organizations.*

Leonardo (center) and family at home

Leonardo (center) and family at home

“Helping a Heart to Beat” served children who ranged in age from infancy to 17. In addition to those already named, the campaign helped 13-month-old Leonardo, a small, sickly baby who had suffered from several heart defects. Paying for corrective surgery was out of the question for his mother, so she would carry Leonardo on her back while she sold sweets on the streets of Santa Cruz. A family friend referred the family to Puente de Solidaridad and Leonardo underwent surgery to patch his left heart ventricle and correct the blood flow between his heart and lungs. He was discharged five days later and is back at home with his adoring mother, grandmother, and brother.

“I want to move forward and be healthy. Many thanks for your help!” – Andrea, 17

“I want to move forward and be healthy. Many thanks for your help!” – Andrea, 17

Another patient, 17-year-old Andrea, had battled shortness of breath since early childhood. Since her surgery, she is excited to breathe normally for the first time in her life, and for the future ahead of her.

Solidarity Bridge would like to send special thanks to Dharma Social Projects for its financial support to help make these surgeries possible.


*Solidarity Bridge and Puente de Solidaridad were proud to participate in this multi-organizational effort with the Incor Clinic, Fundación Cardiovascular Romero Dávalos & Deane (Fundacor), Sociedad Latinoamericana de Cardiología Intervencionista (SOLACI), and Kardiozentrum.


Betsy Station serves as communications and development associate at Solidarity Bridge.

Through Solidarity Bridge's Heart Surgery Program, our dedicated Bolivian partner surgeons provide life-saving pacemaker and open heart surgeries for adults and children.