Norton Children's Hospital donates life-saving treatment to Ugandan patient

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Norton Children's Hospital is saving children around the world.

One of the hospital's newest heart patients from Uganda is getting a second chance at life thanks to a free program.

At two years old and all smiles, Gift Mewali is just that, a gift. "She happened to be one of the lucky ones," said Gift's host mom Rebecca Dixon.

Her story started more than 7,600 miles away in Uganda in east Africa. Gift was born with a hole in her heart and no one to fix it. "It's too long of a wait for them to get care," said Debi McDonald, Executive Director for the Kentucky chapter of Healing the Children.

Healing the Children's Kentucky chapter is helping kids like Gift skip the line. "If they could only be in the United States or taken to another place, they could be healed," McDonald said.

The non-profit organization helps under-served children around the world get urgent medical care.

The family knows the process first hand. Gift's older brother, Patrick also had a heart condition. "He was on borrowed time and his little heart just couldn't do it," Dixon said.

Gift and her mom would not give up. They flew to Louisville in August. "It's a 24 hour trip from her village to my village," Dixon said.

They're staying with Dixon during their visit. "It's brought a lot of light and laughter to my home," Dixon said. "The results are more than you could ever imagine."

Gift was treated at Norton Children's Hospital. "She had a lot of trouble gaining weight, because her heart was always doing extra work just pumping the blood around, and she wasn't able to put on weight through her whole life, up until now," said Dr. Brian Holland, Co-Director of Norton Children's Heart Institute and Chief of Division of Pediatric Cardiology at the University of Louisville.

Dr. Holland said in the U.S., Gift's condition can be common, but it's usually caught early. "We may do the surgery before they're even six months old," Dr. Holland said.

Transportation, time and treatment were all donated. "This is just so wonderful to be involved in something such as this and I just can't imagine what else I could possibly do in my life that would bring me so much joy, to be helping in this way," McDonald said.

Gift will head back home with her mother in a few weeks with a clean bill of health. "I think she's going to have a far better life because we were able to take care of her," Dr. Holland said.

"I hope someday to see her as a young lady. I do. I hope to see Gift when she's 10. I hope to see her again when she's a teenager," Dixon said.

They're also leaving with a second family supporting them.

Click here to learn more about Healing the Children.

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