Jamil and Xenia Urroz of Destrehan recently opened their home – and their hearts – to welcome a gravely ill Honduran boy and his grandmother as he prepared for heart surgery.
The experience, they said, was amazing and rewarding.
On Aug. 17 five-year-old Noath, who suffered from a life-threatening heart condition, and his grandmother Lourdes arrived in New Orleans from Honduras. The trip was planned for Noath to come to the United States and undergo surgery thanks to HeartGift Louisiana, which underwrote his travel and medical expenses. After undergoing pre-op preparations for the surgery that were unavailable in Honduras, his surgery took place on Sept. 9
Stephanie Berault, executive director of HeartGift Louisiana, said cardiac surgeons at Children’s Hospital were able to successfully repair Noath’s ventricular septal defect.
“He is doing great,” she said. “Grandma Lourdes is here with him. She is also his primary caregiver. She searched for years trying to find help. Every single time a mission group would come to Honduras, she would show up to try and get Noath on the list. It took a TV interview seen by a Rotary group from New York to connect her to us … her prayers were answered.”
“I don’t have the words to express how grateful I am,” she said.
The surgery was fully underwritten by donations. HeartGift Louisiana sponsors young heart patients from around the world for surgery at Children’s from countries without adequate medical care to treat the condition. Noath is the 75th child that HeartGift Louisiana has sponsored for surgery at Children’s Hospital. Whit and Maureen Huguley, who own ED & F Man Liquid Products, assisted in the sponsorship. Berault said Noath’s surgery is the 27th they have funded, making them by far the organization’s largest donor.
Noath recuperated with the Urroz family before returning home to Honduras last week.
Xenia, who is also is from Honduras, said she first found about HeartGift years ago when she met the director.
“We’ve been friends ever since,” she said. “I always told her that one day I would help her, and she would include me in all of the emails of the children that were coming.”
Xenia saw the email about Noath when she was on a trip to Honduras, and she said she knew immediately that she wanted to help.
“He’s from Honduras, and I’m from Honduras,” she said. “I knew I would love to do this now, especially now since I’m an empty nester.”
Xenia said she would love to bring awareness to the HeartGift process and get more people involved in volunteering their homes.
“It’s been wonderful, because we’ve gotten to see basically a miracle,” she said. “This little boy … when he had the surgery he was all hooked up to machines and couldn’t walk … and within four days he was up and running. Our experience with this organization has been wonderful. We loved it. I feel like Noath’s grandmother was brave to come to a country she didn’t know and to come to a stranger’s house. We got to witness a miracle.”
Jamil said he was also extremely grateful for the experience of hosting Noath and Lourdes.
“Good things …. you don’t see them that often, but this has just been a tremendous experience,” Jamil said. “Not just for us, but for Noath. The facilitators of the surgery … they really saved somebody’s life. The organization did a tremendous job.”
For more information on HeartGift, visit https://heartgift.org.