How Do We Help Sponsored Children With Serious Heart Conditions?

There are nearly 6 million children worldwide with potentially treatable congenital and acquired heart defects that do not have access to care. In 2009, of the estimated 6,000 children in Uganda in need of cardiac intervention, only 172 received treatment (Uganda Heart Institute).

Alex was one of the statistics — a child with a heart problem with seemingly no hope for treatment. Alex’s father recalls:

“It started as a fever. My wife and I took my son, Alex, to the hospital, but it did not get any better. And when we took him to a bigger hospital, his symptoms baffled the doctors. They had no solution for us but to refer us to the Mulago Heart Institute where we started on a course of treatment.

“This went on for three years with no change. At that point I started to pray to God, saying if it is God’s will to take him away from us then so be it. I spoke to Alex as well and he was of the same mind. Because the doctors saw that I was poor they feared to tell me about the operation abroad because they knew I could not afford it.”

Like many children whose heart conditions go untreated, Alex and his family prepared for the worst. Alex remembers:
man sitting on a stool listening to a radio

“At first I felt like my life was going to end any time because after going to Mulago Heart Institute, they said they couldn’t handle my situation. I saw death at the next door. So I began to seek the face of the Lord. I moved close to God and at that point I asked my daddy to buy me a radio so that I could listen to men praying and lay my hands on the radio, looking at God because He is the one who has the final decision on my life.”

All Alex had was his faith. He had been taught at the child development center to believe in a God who could do the impossible.

“I was not afraid. I had confidence in God. I had heard testimonies of people healed by God who were very sick.”

Sick children at our child development centers are usually identified by our church partners during the routine health screenings. Information on children with heart defects is then forwarded to our country office. It is here that arrangements are made for the children to be taken for assessment.

For some of the children the journey ends with treatment in Uganda. But for others treatment is not enough and surgery is needed to help them.

However in Uganda, there is no access to “first world” cardiac surgery and catheterization. These cases — cases like Alex’s — are referred to India for surgery.

Yona Kapere, the Compassion Uganda health specialist, works closely with the doctors and nurses at the Uganda Heart Institute to arrange for the best doctors in India to treat and look after the children when they are so far from home. The Uganda Heart Institute always arranges for a nurse to accompany the children to and from India.

From 2005 to date, 16 children have gone to India from Uganda for open-heart surgery through our heart surgery intervention program. After surgery in India, the children return to the Uganda Heart Institute for follow-up and monthly review.

All 16 children are alive and have better health since their surgeries. The quality of their lives has improved and they are able to play and take part in the center activities without weakness and illness.

Before Alex’s heart surgery, his physical condition kept him from playing football, his favorite hobby. He also had trouble walking long distances and even waking up. Now, he is back to playing football and he says he is able to walk more than 5 km.

Alex’s future plan is to become a medical doctor or a pastor. Whether he becomes a pastor or a doctor, God has surely saved this young man for a bright future. And wherever Alex goes, he will be able to share his difficult story, which is summed up best in his own words,

“It has not been easy, but God is faithful.”

Although the support the Child Sponsorship Program provides is wide-ranging, your monthly $43 cannot tackle all the obstacles to healthy development the children you love experience.

The program Alex benefited from was part of our Complementary Interventions activities, a key part of our holistic child development model supporting our three core programs: Child Survival, Child Sponsorship and Leadership Development.

You can learn more about our holistic child development model at

12 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Judy Tremblay May 20, 2010

    Thanks for the clarification, Brianne! Now that I look back, he does look more like an older teenager than younger (like my original estimate of 12!). Something about his face makes him look older–I must admit, though: even among the young people I come in contact with, it’s hard for me to guess their age.

  2. Brianne Mullins May 20, 2010

    Hi Judy,
    Alex (from Uganda) is 17.

  3. Judith Tremblay May 19, 2010

    Thanks for the clarification, Chris! I too was confused, even though Alex (Uganda) in this picture looks different than I remembered Alexander (Kenya) looking in the other post. Is Alex in Uganda older, by any chance? He looks closer to 12…

  4. Amy Wallace May 15, 2010

    I’m glad Alex is okay and able to play football again 🙂

  5. Vicki Small May 12, 2010

    I remember when Alex’s story first appeared and readers of this blog decided to do something about that $8,000 price tag for surgery. What a great example that was for what can be done, when the need is known! If I remember correctly, the actual amount given ultimately exceeded $10,000.

    I’ve often wondered if God simply knew that more than $8000 would be needed, and accommodated that need, of if the extra simply sent into the Med. Asst. Fund for the next need.

    I’m delighted to learn that Alex and the others who have benefitted from the heart surgery are all living and thriving. Praise God!

  6. Pat Demonet May 12, 2010

    Thank you for the update on Alexander. I remember when the request for donations came I was thankfully able to make one. It was reported when the operation was successful, but I have wondered how he was doing.

    1. Chris Giovagnoni May 12, 2010


      This blog post isn’t about 8-year old Alexander in Kenya. It’s about a boy name Alex in Uganda. It’s very easy to get confused, I know.

      This is the latest update on Alexander
      . It’s about a month old.

  7. Lisa Miles May 12, 2010

    Thanks for that info. My mother-in-law passed away two weeks ago and I thought it would be nice to make a donation towards something that will help others’ medical needs — she received such great medical care herself.

  8. Lisa Miles May 11, 2010

    What a courageous and faith-filled person Alex must be. I am so happy for this positive outcome and to hear about the goals he has set for himself. Our family will pray for him!

    I have a question. If a person wants to donate money to Compassion specifically to go towards these kinds of interventions for children, which fund would you donate to?

    I found this link to a list of Compassion funds.

    Would it be the medical assistance fund?

    1. Chris Giovagnoni May 12, 2010


      Yes. It’s the Medical Assistance Fund. However, that particular Complementary Intervention pays for medical needs that are less than $5,000. It’s kind of an emergency fund that allows our church partners to take care of needs as they occur, without a great deal of paperwork.

      However, when a medical need arises that is more than $5,000, a request for funds must be submitted by the church. Depending on the situation, we often then attempt to raise money to fund that particular need. A good example of that was the need that Alexander had for heart surgery last May.

  9. Marci in MO May 11, 2010

    What a beautiful story of Alex, a humble young man whose heart is yielded to God for his next breath and future; just as ours should be.
    We all are born with the same heart ailment, sin; it is something that only God can remove and heal.
    What a wonderful way to start my day; to read this precious story of Alex and his faith.

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