John Rydzik from Clarence Rotary, shared the following update on Zahir Khan, the first Gift of Life child saved in 1996:
Thought you would like to see the wonderful letter and photo of Zahir Khan, our first Gift of Life child we saved suffering from congenital heart disease.
Pediatric Cardiologist Daniel Pieroni reviewed two children’s medical records on September 13, 1996 and approved Zahir Khan and Rachad Lovelace for immediate corrective heart surgery. After reviewing the medical reports and conferring with Dr. Daniel Pieroni, Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgeon Eliot Rosencranz agreed to do the life saving open heart surgery as soon as possible.
The first two children coming to Buffalo for heart surgery suffering with congenital heart defects were twelve year old Zahir Khan with mother Jennifer from Trinidad and nine month old Rachad Lovelace with mother Cindy from Tobago. They arrived at Greater Buffalo International Airport on October 12, 1996 and were greeted by PDG John Rydzik, PDG Jack Hoyt with wife Arlene and G.O.L Director Dale Jacobs. Arlene greeted the mothers with bouquets of flowers. The Khans and Lovelace’s were driven to the Ronald McDonald House for their stay in Buffalo.
The next day they were driven around the corner to The Children’s Hospital of Buffalo were they were given medical examinations by Dr. Eliot Rosenkranz and dates of surgery were arranged. Zahir Khan was operated on October 16, 1996 and Rachad Lovelace on October 30, 1996. Both surgeries were successful. They were entertained by the Rotary clubs of Buffalo and Clarence at their noon luncheon meetings, taken to the Buffalo Circus by Rotarian Dave Knauss from the Rotary club of Hamburg Sunrise, dinners to the houses of G.O.L. Director and Rotarian Todd Jebb from the Hamburg Sunrise Rotary club and Rotarian Robert Artis from the Clarence Rotary club, Gray Lines donated tour of Niagara Falls & Niagara Falls Aquarium accompanied by John Rydzik, Sylvia Hills, Jack and Arlene Hoyt, shopping tours by Dale Jacobs, Sylvia Hills and John Rydzik.
The Khans and Lovelace’s departed Buffalo for home on November 17, 1996 with 16 bags of luggage that was approved by American Airlines. They also met with the Erie County Executive Dennis Gorski at the airport who wished them a safe journey and asked them to come back to Buffalo for a visit.
A Poem Written By Zahir Khan
Fifteen years has gone
And I’m still here today,
Because you cared for me
In such a special way.
Although I came from a foreign land
You did not look away
You gave me a ray of hope
To see another day.
Thank you for all your support
And all your prayers too
I pray that God Almighty
Will always be good to you.
May the peace and blessing of Allah (God)
Be upon you and yours.
Rob Raylman is the Chief Executive officer for Gift of Life International. He assumed this role in 2008.
Rob is a life-long resident of New York State. He graduated Hobart College in 1984 with a BS in Political Science. Over the years, he worked for US Senator Alfonse D’Amato and held the position of Vice President for Browning-Ferris Industries (at the time, the second largest international solid waste company in the world). In 2008, Rob created the position of CEO for Gift of Life International. Since then, he was visited 38 countries on 5 continents to build the Gift of Life Global Network of 84 affiliates. During Rob’s tenure with Gift of Life International, 30 affiliates have been created while over 35,000 children have received care for their heart defects.
Rob focuses on strategically building bridges between Gift of Life programs, foreign Governments, Rotary Clubs and Districts, like-minded organizations and hospital administrations in order to address the Global Crisis of congenital heart defects.