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Kosovo children doing well after heart surgery

Aurela Berisha, 6, smiles at her mother during a press conference to discuss her heart surgery at PCMH. She and another Kosovoc hild came to Greenville through the Samaritan's Purse Children's Heart Project. Photo by Cliff Hollis.
GREENVILLE, N.C.   (Feb. 20, 2003)   —   Two days after having life-saving heart surgery at Pitt County Memorial Hospital, 6-year-old Aurela Berisha sat in a wheelchair in her pajamas and pink slipper socks smiling during a press conference to highlight her surgery and how the little girl from Kosovo arrived in eastern North Carolina.

Aurela and 3-year-old Dardan Zeqiri arrived in Greenville in early February with their mothers and an interpreter from Kosovo, where heart surgery to repair their congenital heart defects is unavailable. The Samaritan's Purse Children's Heart Project coordinated and paid for the travel for the children, their mothers and an interpreter.

When asked how she felt, Aurela said through an interpreter, "Very good. Very happy," with a big grin.

Lorraine Rucker, one of the Samaritan's Purse local volunteers, said, "She didn't even want to ride in the wheelchair. She wanted to walk."

The children were discharged from PCMH three days after surgery. They will remain in Greenville for the next four weeks with host families from Covenant United Methodist Church so physicians can monitor their recoveries before making the long flight back to Kosovo, which is a province in the Republic of Serbia.

"Both surgeries went well," said Sharon Welsh, pediatric cardiac nurse clinician at Children'™s Hospital of University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina. "Both children were off the ventilator and moved out of the pediatric ICU within 24 hours after surgery. We were very pleased with their progress."

Dr. Jon Moran, a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, performed the first procedure on Feb. 18, on Aurela. She had a ventricular septal defect, a hole between the two lower pumping chambers of the heart along with some obstruction of blood flow to the lungs. That hole was closed with a patch and the obstruction removed. Her mother, Valbone Berisha, accompanied her to Greenville.

Because of the VSD, Aurela is smaller than other children her age. She and Dardan, who is three years younger, are about the same size, the physicians noted. In the United States, children born with VSD are typically repaired with surgery between 6 and 12 months of age. Aurela's mother said that when Aurela was 2 weeks old doctors discovered that she had a heart problem.

Dr. Theodore Koutlas, also an ECU pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon, operated Feb. 19 on Dardan. He had an atrial septal defect, a hole between the upper chambers of the heart causing excess blood flow to the lungs and an enlarged heart. Dardan's hole was closed with sutures. His mother, Elizabeta Zeqiri, accompanied him to the United States.

Dardan's ASD would have typically been corrected surgically around 2 years of age in the United States, the surgeons noted.

Dr. Charlie Sang, a pediatric cardiologist with ECU, performed the pre-surgery medical evaluations of the children. Both children also required a full dental exam and care prior to having surgery to prevent complications post-surgery. Dr. Jasper Lewis of Greenville provided the dental care.

The interpreter for the children and their mothers, Semie Vula, came with them from Kosovo. She said she was thankful to be able to come on the trip with the children. "I'm appreciative to the Samaritan's Purse families. I've been blessed to come on this trip. I'm thankful to Dr. Koutlas and Dr. Moran and the whole hospital staff," Vula said.

Aurela's mother was teary-eyed after she said: "I'm pleased and happy that she has a new heart now and a normal life. I have a normal life with my kids now. I thank Samaritan's Purse for bringing my child here."

According to the Samaritan's Purse Children's Heart Project, Aurela lives with her parents, grandparents, two sisters and a brother along with other relatives (a total of 18) in one house in Drenco. Because of her heart defect, be


Contact: Jeannine Manning Hutson | 252-744-2481