PATERSON, NJ (FEBRUARY 11, 2009)- Sonia Castillo is much like any other 11-year-old girl you're likely to see in any northern New Jersey community: a beautiful child who enjoys her daily walks to school almost as much as she loves to run and play with her friends.
Sonia, however, doesn't live in North Jersey. Her home is in the tiny municipality of La Esperanza, tucked away in the high forests of western Honduras. And since birth, Sonia's health has been anything but "normal."
A series of Ventricular Septal Defects - "holes" in the wall between the two lower chambers of Sonia's heart - were causing red, oxygen-rich blood to mix with blue blood from the veins on the right side of her heart, leading to abnormally high blood flow into the lungs. With no cardiac surgeon in her Central American homeland to repair the damage, prospects for the little girl with the big smile were grim.
A Honduran doctor referred Sonia to Rotary Club International's Gift of Life Program, which accepts children who desperately need life-saving medical attention not available to them in their home country. In turn, the Rotary Club of Paramus drew on its 10-year relationship with St. Joseph's Children Hospital (SJCH) in Paterson to arrange for a team led by Dr. Khanh H. Nguyen, whose specialty is pediatric cardio thoracic surgery, to donate their time and talents.
Thanks to a selfless team of cardiologists, surgeons, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit nurses and intensivists at SJCH, Sonia Castillo is again walking, running and playing ... and enjoying the gift of life.
Home to New Jersey's only active pediatric cardiology surgical department, St. Joseph's Children's Hospital at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center has long been a trailblazer in leading edge technology and comprehensive services for patients from birth to 21 years of age and their families. Working as a team, the pediatric specialists share their knowledge and experience to identify and anticipate complications that may impact the child's state-of-mind and future development.
Although they conduct a wide range of pediatric cardiac surgical procedures, the medical team often repairs congenital defects or acquired heart problems through simple intervention.
"A minimum invasive procedure decreases the risk of infectious complications while minimizing the amount of blood loss and scarring," explains Michael A. Lamacchia, MD, Chairman, Pediatrics, SJCH. "Instead of being hospitalized for three or four days, the child may go home the very next day."
According to Dr. Lamacchia, while hospitals throughout the region have discontinued critical services, St. Joseph's - committed to a high standard of quality, compassionate care - maintains an array of surgical and medical components to treat the whole child.