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Dr Rodrigo Soto and Daniel, his patient in 2009 and in 2021.

Over the past year, Gift of Life International has been on a transformative journey in the Dominican Republic. For 3 years, we have assisted a peds cardiac program and sent doctors, nurses, and surgical teams to Cedimat Hospital, in the Dominican Republic, to slowly build a sustainable and independent cardiac surgical program.

The goal is to ensure that children born with heart defects in the Dominican Republic can be successfully treated by local medical professionals.

Dr. Rodrigo Soto is a pediatric cardiac surgeon who has made many week-long trips to the Dominican Republic since 2007, at least once a year.

His mission is simple: “Going to lower and middle-income countries to help them deal with the overload of patients with CHD, congenital heart disease, that desperately need help.”

The Picture

The picture above is tells a story. Now, every story has a beginning and this one has it’s wondering ending. This picture showcases the real work Gift of Life International does everyday. In 2009, Dr. Rodrigo Soto operated on Daniel, an 8 month old little boy who was born with a single ventricle. He received life saving surgery and care but his story was not over. In 2021, Dr. Soto performed the follow up surgery on Daniel when he was 12 years old. A surgery that Daniel has known was coming.

At the hospital, Daniel’s mother gave this picture to Dr. Soto, it was a picture she took 12 years before, right after her son received this life saving surgery. This is what we do every day.

Surgical teams spend a week at Cedimat Hospital, performing heart surgeries and heart catheterizations on children suffering from various heart defects, including Ventricular Septal Defect, Atrial Septal Defect, Tetralogy of Fallot, AV Canal Defect, Patent Ductus Arteriosus, Pulmonary Stenosis, Aortic Stenosis, and Coarctation of the Aorta.

These are all defects that can be healed with surgery or catheterization with a high success rate, leading to happier, fuller lives for the children affected.

For the past 10 years, Dr. Soto has been completely dedicated to global health. He sees the work that Gift of Life International does as invaluable.

“We know that only 10% of the kids born with CHD are receiving full-service medical care that includes diagnosis, treatment, and post-surgery care. So 90% of kids with CHD do not have access to this medical care. That’s a huge gap that organizations like Gift of Life International and people like myself are trying to solve.”

And Dr. Soto is not alone.

Instead of just coming in a few times a year to conduct surgeries, Gift of Life International’s additional initiative in the DR also incorporates a continuous education program for ICU nurses.

The Nurses Making a Difference

Volunteer nurses, Kelly Davis, Rebecca Dworkin, and Kaleigh Connors, with the support of Gift of Life International, have partnered with Cedimat, a regional hospital, to train local nurses and help build a self-sustaining cardiac surgical program.

Nurses training in a board room in the Dominican Republic learning from volunteer nursesNurse who is training in a board room in the Dominican Republic Volunteer nurses in the Dominican Republic


The aim? Transform the cardiac surgical program into a beacon of self-sustainability. This includes the establishment of a whole new curriculum for the local nurses, complete with didactic training, simulations, and hands-on practice.

Two visits from our nurse educators have already taken place, with a third visit set for August 2023. According to Kelly, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. These visits are on top of the training visits from a more comprehensive and full team from Gift of Life International.

“It’s been really impressive to see the engagement and growth of the local nursing staff there. And our hope is that by the end of this year, the select group of local nurses that we’ve taught can then turn around and become the teachers.”

This mission, however, needs resources. By choosing to donate, you become part of this life-changing initiative, helping to spread the light of knowledge and making healthcare accessible to children worldwide.

For more inspiring stories about the work of Gift of Life International, please visit our stories page.

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