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As the sun rose over La Paz, Bolivia, the halls of Hospital del Niño buzzed with a palpable sense of hope. Today marks the commencement of a week-long journey in Bolivia, defined by hope, dedication, and exceptional medical expertise.

Gift of Life International utilizes the donations we receive to deeply transform the lives of children globally, and this week, those donations will help save countless children in La Paz, Bolivia. 

None of these children could be helped without the indispensable assistance of our global network of partners, including Gift of Life Rotary District 7490 and Corazones Chiquitos Bolivia.

Doctors at the del Nino hospital in Bolivia.

The team at Hospital Del Niño in La Paz.

On the morning of Sunday, April 14th, 2024 the Gift of Life International team arrived at Hospital Del Niño in La Paz, Bolivia. The team consists of five nurses, one respiratory therapist, one perfusionist, one cardio thoracic surgeon, and two cardiac intensivists. Also accompanying the team is Latidos de Esperanza Executive Director, Ivonne Lopez from El Salvador, and Gift of Life International CEO, Rob Raylman. 

A total of 14 children were screened in a coordinated effort by the Bolivian team and our Gift of Life team. 

Following evaluation, 10 children were selected for surgery this week with 2 additional children selected for backup in the event that a child falls ill and needs to be rescheduled for our next visit.

Dr. Jesus Ponzo and Valentino for a screening.

Dr. Jesus Ponzo and Valentino.

Here, you see Bolivian cardiologist, Dr. Jesus Ponzo, performing an echocardiogram on little Valentino who is scheduled to be operated on Monday.

The doctors at del Nino Hospital, Bolivia.After meeting the staff at the hospital, of whom they will be working with this week, including Dr. Ericka Perez who is the cardiac surgeon that works at Hospital Del Niño, the Gift of Life team quickly got to work getting the hospital ready for the week to come. Dr. Daniel Velez (visiting Pediatric Cardiac Surgeon) and Dr. Gabe Owens (visiting Pediatric Cardiologist/Intensivist) began screening the children together with the Bolivian team to examine their eligibility for surgery while the rest of the team went downstairs to begin unpacking crucial supplies in the ICU and OR.

Esphril patient at del Nino Hospital, Bolivia.

Little Esphril can be seen pictured with her mother and doctors.

The Bolivian cardiology team worked together with Dr. Gabe Owens, Pediatric Cardiologist from the University of Michigan, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, to screen and select patients for this week’s training visit.

The focus of this week’s visit will be the treatment and post-operative care of children with ventricular septal defects (VSD), which is a hole between the bottom two chambers of the heart. Sweet Esphril is one of the patients selected for treatment this week.

Tales of Hope: Valery Yulieth and Dylan

Nine month old Valery Yulieth and 7 month old Dylan were two of the children selected for life saving heart surgery this week.

Baby treated by GOLI.

Valery Yulieth











Breaking Through: Saving Lives Against All Odds

Doctors unloading equipment.

The team unpacking critical supplies into the ICU and OR.

While the children were being screened upstairs, the rest of the team was downstairs unpacking critical supplies into the ICU and OR. 

These giant bags of supplies were sent to Bolivia from the U.S. but their arrival was delayed. Originally, these supplies were supposed to arrive with the team at 2AM on Saturday, April 13th. 

Due to customs, the bags were kept at the airport until Sunday, April 14th at about 1:30PM. Karla Patzi, the executive coordinator and representative for Gift of Life in Bolivia at Hospital del Niño, waited a total of nine hours for these supplies at the airport between Saturday and Sunday! Once she finally received them, she delivered them to the hospital safely and helped unload them into the hospital so that our team could get to work. 


Doctors getting equipment in del Nino Hospital, Bolivia.

Dr. Ericka Perez, Bolivian pediatric cardiac surgeon, and Dr. Daniel Velez, visiting pediatric cardiac surgery from Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Arizona, will work together this week as they heal the hearts of Bolivian children in need.

Dr. Ericka Perez and Dr. Daniel Velez pictured together.

 A Day of Heartfelt Victories

In the broader context, the impact of initiatives like the Annual Visit in Bolivia might seem confined to statistics. However, the truth runs much deeper. Beyond what these pictures capture lies an essence of hope—the jubilant anticipation that today heralds a positive change.

The program in Bolivia is a Gift of Life International Core Program, steadily progressing towards sustainability. Through meticulous planning and strategic partnerships, it is steadily evolving into a self-operating entity. By fostering local expertise and empowering community involvement, we are nurturing a system that not only delivers vital cardiac care but also sustains itself over time. We are laying the foundation for a sustainable future where access to life-saving cardiac care becomes an inherent part of the healthcare landscape.

This week in La Paz, Bolivia goes beyond the correction of heart defects; it sets the rhythm for a future where every child has access to life-saving cardiac care.

Be sure to follow along with us throughout the week as we share daily posts and updates on our progress.

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