In April of 2006, I led a short-term dental mission team from Lexington, Kentucky to the San Pedro Sula area of Honduras, Central America. Our first day of clinics was at the site of the Merendon Mountain Clinic, in the village of Penitas Arriba, in the mountains just outside the San Pedro Sula limits. This is where we met Dunia Caballero.
Dunia is a sweet young lady who was born with the condition known as â€œNoonan Syndrome.â€ Noonan Syndrome has the potential to cause several health problems, among them cardiovascular complications. Unfortunately, Dunia was afflicted with major problems with the valves in her heart. She is also of very small stature, as a result of the condition, and slow growth from heart complications. She is sixteen years old yet weighs only 55 lbs.
In 1999 the missionary nurse that runs the Merendon Clinic, and Duniaâ€™s primary healthcare provider, arranged for supplies and money to be sent to Honduras to equip a hospital to perform a procedure known as a valvuloplasty. In August of that year, Dunia had the first valvuloplasty ever performed in Honduras. This procedure made a big difference for Dunia and returned her life to some semblance of normality. As kids do, Dunia started growing (albeit slowly) and it has led her to the point where she has outgrown the benefits of her previous surgery. Now, her heart is not able to keep up with the rest of her body and very little effort produces rapid exhaustion due to insufficient oxygen distribution in her blood. Without treatment, she will spiral into poorer and poorer health until her little life is snuffed outâ€¦too soon.
As it happens, one of the team members, a periodontal surgeon, had a history of heart problems and had undergone surgery for heart valve replacements. She was so touched by Duniaâ€™s plight, she couldnâ€™t leave it alone.
Dunia was supposed to have another surgery in Honduras to correct her problem, but once again, it proved very difficult. All the materials necessary for the surgery had to be provided and a series of events kept delaying treatment and causing rescheduling.
After two months of not receiving the care, the periodontist decided she could take no more waiting. She contacted her own cardiothoracic surgeon and asked if there was anything that could be done. At that time, we (in the US) didnâ€™t know the name of her condition, so we began getting information from the Honduran missionary. That is when we were informed the root cause of Duniaâ€™s condition was Noonan Syndrome.
Imagine the surprise we all had when we found out the coincidence that the periodontistâ€™s pediatric cardiologist, who cared for her in the early days of her own heart disease, was named Dr. Noonan! Yes, the disease was named after Dr. Noonan when she began developing a great deal of scholarship and research on the condition in 1963. She just so happens to be the global authority on the disease with her namesake.
The cardiothoracic surgeon graciously volunteered to perform the procedure and a hospital in Lexington offered the use of its facilities at no charge. With the biggest parts of the puzzle in place, there is one final major hurdle, a Medical Visa.
At this time, we are feverishly working, through an immigration attorney, to get â€œHumanitarian Paroleâ€ for Dunia. This will allow her to receive a visa for medical travel to the United States. Once this final (Large) puzzle piece falls into place, we will only have to deal with the lesser issues of travel, food, lodging, and transportation while she is in Kentucky.
Our fundraising efforts have begun and our minimum estimation is USD 5674.00. The potential exists for more financial need if complications arise.
The breakdown of financial need:
* Travel to and from Honduras for Dunia and chaperones: USD 2874.00 (subject to change, depending on airfare).
* Paperwork and physician/diagnostic fees in Honduras prior to travel: USD 1300.00
* Expenses in the US (we hope most will be donated, but we want to build in a bit of a buffer zone to help in the event of unexpected expense): USD 500.00
* Follow up care and medications, for an extended period of time, in Honduras when surgery is complete: USD 1000.00
Dunia has had to drop out of school due to the fact that she can not walk there as a result of exhaustion. If possible, we would also like to raise money to cover her education through high school. This would take an additional USD 300-500.
If you wish to be a part of helping this little girl, donations are currently being accepted. Donations can be given through PayPal on the web or mailed to:
La Cima World Missions, Inc.
PO Box 54322
Lexington, KY 40555-4322
Dr. David Sperow
Lacima World Missions
If you would like to make an immediate donation by credit card, please use this button:
Update (July 3, 2006): Dunia will have her passport application interview on July 12. The visa should come shortly after that. Dr Dave Sperrow sent a letter assuming responsiblity for her care, transportation, and general well-being while she is in the United States. The surgeon is writing a letter stating he will do the surgery for free, and the Hospital is writing as well.
Update (July 5, 2006): If you would like to see a video of the good work Dr Dave and Lacima are doing in Honduras, then check out their Google Video.
Update (July 16, 2006): Dunia has now been given a passport! Record time!
Update (July 18, 2006): So far we have raised $1685
Update (Augst 15, 2006): We made it – donations will now pay for Dunia to go to the US for surgery.
Update (Sept 5, 2006): Dunia’s surgery went off without a hitch! Great News!
Update (Sept 5, 2006): For updates on Dunia’s conditions as they happen, please click here.