One of the children we met at Maria’s Big House of Hope in 2011, Harith, was born with a tracheoesophageal fistula (this means his trachea “wind pipe” and esophagus “food tube” are abnormally connected, causing air and food to go into the wrong pipes).
Overwhelmed by shame, and terrified that they would not have a “normal” baby, Harith’s parents had abandoned him as a newborn. He was placed in an orphanage soon after birth where his chances of a happy childhood were extremely grim. There, he received emergency surgery to attempt to fix his fistula, but the surgery was unsuccessful. His lung collapsed, and he immediately started losing weight. Doctors expected that he would not make it.
When our MKI/Cedars-Sinai Pediatric Surgical team was at the orphanage caring for children with digestive abnormalities in 2011, then six-month-old Harith was brought to our attention, and the local staff begged the team to help. But, Harith’s situation was far too complex to be taken on in China. Harith had to be brought to Southern California for the repair. After a feeding tube was inserted in his stomach and he was stable enough, Harith made the long journey accompanied by a nurse to the U.S., where he was placed with a loving MKI Host Family.
At Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Dr. Philip Frykman who led the China team, took on Harith’s very challenging case. Due to the complex nature of this rare congenital anomaly combined with his prior surgery, he underwent multiple surgeries that improved his condition, but did not completely close the fistula.
Harith was a tough case. Dr. Frykman suggested that Harith recover, and that they wait 4-6 months before considering further surgery.
But then a true miracle happened… In the care of his Host Family, Harith not only began to thrive, but also started to improve! In fact, when they took him to his pre-surgical appointment, Dr. Frykman was surprised to learn the fistula had repaired itself. Dr. Frykman shared in an e-mail to MKI:
"Our little Harith underwent an esophagram today to evaluate for a recurrent TEF. Much to my surprise and happiness, the fistula has closed! In addition, his pulmonary status and chest x-ray are markedly improved with expansion (indicating healing) of his right upper and right middle lobes. Physically he looks fantastic…! In comparison to where we started, he looks like a different child! Thank you to everyone who has devoted much time, energy, love and financial resources to this tough little guy. As a result of this combined effort, he will have a bright future!"
Today, because of your contributions to MKI for the last surgical mission, Harith was helped and is now a happy and playful little boy. And once healthy, it did not take long for his captivating smile and charming personality to win over his adoptive parents, who are planning on bringing Harith home with them soon.
It is your kindness and dedication that helps save lives like Harith’s every day, all over the world. Your gifts literally give the gift of life, hope and childhood to helpless, deserving babies. Our MKI/Cedars-Sinai Pediatric Surgical Team looks forward to helping save the lives of even more children like Harith this year – other special children who are just waiting for someone like you, and our surgical team to come along.
Click to read more about Louyang, China