St. Francis docs fix Haitian orphan’s heart

A 19-month-old Haitian orphan recently received a new chance at life thanks to the efforts of one doctor and his colleagues at St. Francis Hospital in Port Washington.
Dr. Lionel Barrau, Chief of Nephrology at the hospital, was visiting his native country of Haiti last December. During his trip, he made a visit to an orphanage that he was directed to by the Mercy and Sharing Foundation, a charitable institution that helps take care of sick children in Haiti. It was there that he saw then 7-month-old Patricia, who was abandoned on the steps of a government hospital as an infant.
“She was so vivacious,” said Barrau, who came to America in 1968.
Although she was the smallest baby there, Barrau said she was the most active even though she had respiratory problems. He decided to examine her and while listening to her chest, he heard a heart murmur so he faxed an echocardiogram of her heart to St. Francis Director of Pediatric Cardiology, Dr. Sean Levchuck.
Levchuck diagnosed Patricia with pulmonary valve stenosis, a condition in which the walls of the heart valve stick together and blood flow to the lungs is slowed down. It can cause shortness of breath. Levchuck told Barrau that he could easily fix Patricia’s heart.
“This is what I live for, to help children like Patricia,” said Levchuck.
Barrau began making plans for her to come to N.Y. He got her a birth certificate, a passport and a pro bono visa. With the help of the Mercy and Sharing foundation, which is based in Colorado, Patricia was able to be flown to the United States. She arrived in New York in the second week of December.
On December 19, Levchuck performed the 45-minute surgery in which he inserted a balloon catheter into Patricia’s leg to treat her valve. She stayed over night and was discharged the next day.
“You have immediate relief after that procedure,” said Barrau. “The heart condition prevented her from breathing and when she was discharged, she was smiling and happy.”
All of this was also made possible by the Nicholas J. Vizza Memorial Fund for Pediatrics, which paid for her hospital care. Patricia is now known as the “Christmas child” at St. Francis.
If Patricia did not receive the surgery, she could have developed heart failure, arrhythmias, which are disorders of the regular rhythmic heartbeats, and cardiac arrest. According to Barrau, she may not have survived past the age of three.
Barrau said that he believes that Patricia will be fine, but says he has to speak to Levchuck because pulmonary valve stenosis can be associated with other parts of the heart.
Although Patricia is currently staying with Barrau’s sister-in-law, a retired nurse, she will eventually return to Haiti where she will receive a last name and become eligible for adoption. However, Barrau guessed that Patricia won’t be staying in Haiti for long because a nurse from St. Francis has already put in a request for adoption.

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