LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Her home is half a world away, but for the last 7 weeks, 6-year-old Logose lived in Louisville. She was recovering from a surgery that saved her life, one she couldn't get back in Uganda.
Logose had a large hole in her heart, or Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD), a common defect usually fixed within the first few months after birth. Children with this issue tend to breathe really hard and heavy when they're eating and can tire out quickly. They also do not grow appropriately.
"If its a really large hole and it's left untreated, it can be fatal," Dr. Deborah Kozik, a Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgeon, with Norton Children's Hospital said.
It's a harsh reality for millions of kids suffering from similar defects in countries where the resources aren't there. Even those with facilities may not have supplies or doctors to staff them.
That's where the organization, Healing the Children, is making a difference. It provides critical medical care to kids around the world.
"In Uganda, there are four cardiologists in country. They are performing two to three surgeries a week. So there's a waiting list at all times of 1,000 people on that list," Debi McDonald, the executive director of Healing the Children Kentucky said. "And that's just for VSDs, not to mention other severe heart conditions.
"When you're talking about children, or anyone, who needs a heart repair within a few years, it's going to be too late. Do the math. It's not going to happen. So, most people fall off the list not because they received the surgery and are well. It's because they've passed," McDonald said.
Since its start in 1979, Healing the Children has reached more than 250,000 children across 95 countries. Hospitals like Norton Children's Hospital partner with the group, providing care to kids at home and abroad.
"They're willing to take more risky cases other hospitals wouldn't want," Dr. Kozik said.
Dr. Kozik was the surgeon on Logose's case. She's one several UofL physicians who perform similar surgeries every year at no cost to the families.
"It can be challenging, because you don't always have everything you need and so you do the best you can. So, to be able to bring them here and do the surgery, is a great thing," Dr. Kozik said.
The organization sends about 100 kids to the U.S. for critical, life-saving surgeries every year. Louisville has worked closely with the organization for the past decade, and flies in anywhere from three to eight kids a year.
Louisville resident, Rebecca Dixon, opens her home to these kids for weeks, if not months, opening their eyes to new experiences while they recover.
For Logose, her surgery went perfectly. Doctors were surprised she'd lived as long as she had with such a large defect.
The trip here is a risk for everyone involved. Another girl on Logose's flight never made it into surgery. Her final days were spent with her host family and many others from around Louisville who made sure to give her a proper goodbye. McDonald said a group from Louisville's Muslim community stepped in when they learned of the girl's passing and paid for her funeral and burial.
"For those who don't make it, I grieve for them and their families. But I rejoice in the ones that do make it. They won't remember me, but they'll always be in my heart," Dixon said.
Just last night, Logose made it back to Uganda. Home videos show the 6-year-old smiling, after a 28-hour flight across the world. Home at last.
She may be home, but so many others are still waiting for their happy ending. Another child, a young boy, here in Louisville is getting ready for his own life-altering surgery thanks to Healing the Children.