Celebrating life 100 times over
Josiah Ntoko Tongo from Dakar, Senegal, became the 100th child to receive a heart operation through District 6560’s Gift of Life program. Photo by Jim Graham
On 22 July, Josiah Ntoko Tongo from Dakar, Senegal, became the 100th child to receive a heart operation through RI District 6560’s (Indiana, USA) Gift of Life program.
Run in partnership with Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, the program provides treatment for children who wouldn’t have access to it otherwise because of where they live.
The hospital performs the surgeries for free, while Rotarians cover costs such as lodging and travel. The Indiana program is part of the larger Gift of Life International network , which has helped nearly 10,000 children since 1975.
District 6560’s Gift of Life program started in 1998 and has benefited children from about 30 countries.
The project made international headlines after a one-year-old boy, who had been examined by a doctor in the Indiana National Guard at an Afghan refugee camp, was found to have a congenital heart defect. A Rotarian serving with the unit connected him with Gift of Life, and he was brought to Riley Hospital.
Unfortunately, the boy died days after returning to Afghanistan, despite receiving what was hoped to be a life-saving heart surgery.
After operating on three children from Iraq in 2006, the project’s medical team was inspired to travel on medical missions to the Middle East, going to Jordan in March 2007 and again in March 2008, says Jim Graham, a past governor for District 6560.
The second trip was funded through a Matching Grant between the district and the Rotary Club of Amman Cosmopolitan, Jordan, and was assisted by Gift of Life Amman. The team plans to return in October and is planning a trip to Uganda to train doctors at the Kampala Heart Institute.