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Infant boys from Mongolia arrive for heart surgery here

Photo by Cliff Hollis.
GREENVILLE, N.C.   (July 11, 2001)   —   Two infant boys from a distant land will have their tiny hearts repaired in Greenville courtesy of the medical center and a relief organization that brought them here.

The two 10-month-olds from Mongolia arrived in Greenville July 10 after an arduous 24-hour journey aboard four airplanes. Their visit to Greenville has been organized and sponsored by Samaritan's Purse, the international relief organization headed by Franklin Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham. Pitt County Memorial Hospital and physicians with the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University and in private practice are donating their services to the effort.

The children have been diagnosed with ventricular septal defect, a congenital abnormality in which the two pumping chambers of the heart have a hole between them. Although the condition is usually not immediately life threatening, in many cases the opening must be surgically closed for the children to survive and thrive. The surgery was scheduled for July 18.

Only one pediatric cardiologist practices in Mongolia, a country of 2.6 million people. Over the past year, Samaritan's Purse has equipped this physician with an echocardiogram machine and provided additional training.

In its Children's Heart Project, begun in 1997, Samaritan's Purse has brought more than 120 children with life-threatening heart defects to the United States from Bosnia, Kosovo and Mongolia. These countries do not have surgical programs capable of performing the heart repairs.

"When we were presented with this opportunity to help, it just felt like the right thing to do," said Dave McRae, chief executive officer of PCMH and University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina. "We are proud to be among the medical centers in the United States that are supporting this cause."

The boys traveled from Mongolia with their mothers and an interpreter. Chimedtseren Ankhbayar lives in the Ger District of Mongolia. His father is a driver and his mother is a student who studies English and French. Her name is Chalkhaajav Suvderdene.

Tsogoo Sarantsogt lives in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar in an apartment with his parents. His mother is Magnaidorj Ariuntuya.

The party is in the company of an interpreter, Narantuya "Naraa," Bayadaa. She works as a translator for the Ulaanbaatar Bible School.

Situated between Russia on the north and China on the east, south and west, Mongolia is primarily an agricultural nation. It began a transition from Communism to democratic government in the 1990s.

The group is expected to be in the United States for about five weeks. The children will undergo medical evaluation and then are expected to have the corrective surgery about a week later.

Samaritan's Purse handled travel logistics for the group and paid all their travel expenses. The organization also arranged for Christ Presbyterian Church in Winterville and two local families to host the visitors during their stay in the area.

Dr. Theodore Koutlas, a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon with ECU, and Dr. Charlie Sang, an ECU pediatric cardiologist, will be in charge of the infants' medical care. Glyn Young, director of the PCMH Clinical Information and Support Office, is the coordinator of the visit.

The initial contact about participation in the Children's Heart Project came from the daughter of Dr. W. Randolph Chitwood Jr., head of surgery at ECU and PCMH. Anne Chitwood learned about the need during a relief visit to Kosovo and Macedonia, and contacted her father and mother, Tammy Chitwood, past chairman of the Pitt Memorial Hospital Foundation.

"After reviewing the details of the Children's Heart Project and realizing the number of children who die because they live in an area with no access to heart surgery, I believed it was important to participate in this project," said Tammy Chitwood. "I hope ou


Contact: Tom Fortner | 252-744-2481