6-year-old Fatao Needs Heart Surgery

UPDATE: April 10 at 4:00 p.m. MT – Fatao returned to Burkina Faso and is doing very well. His homecoming was celebrated by both family and friends. Thank you for your prayers and support!

ventricular septal defect

Donate now to help other children like Fatao

Abdoul Fatao Kone is a 6-year-old boy living with his father, mother and five siblings in Bobo Dioulasso (southwest Burkina Faso).

Fatao’s father is a part-time security guard who struggles to make ends meet for his family. And Fatao’s mother sells fritters (steamed bean cakes) at the local market to help support the family.

When Fatao turned 1, his parents learned that he has a heart problem: a ventricular septal defect (VSD)—a hole in his heart.

Although his parents have known about Fatao’s condition for years, they’ve never been able to afford the necessary medical care. Instead, they tried traditional medicines and methods. Traditional methods include scarring the skin with small holes and placing herbs in the holes then washing the body with a mixture of boiled leaves. When these didn’t work, they had no other options until Fatao was registered in our sponsorship program in December 2010.

At his first medical checkup the following April, the doctor, Tamboura Hassane, prescribed numerous medications for Fatao: Furosemide, Captopril, aspirin and Corvasal—and placed him on a salt-free diet. He also recommended that Fatao see a cardiologist.

“In Fatao’s case, his heart has to work double or triple than [what] it would work normally, so if Fatao is growing up and the heart is working faster, it will have to stop someday because it won’t be able to respond to this.”

The cardiologist confirmed the diagnosis of ventricular septal defect in August and recommended surgery. For the surgery to take place, Fatao needs to travel to India. Dr. Hassane explains,

“We have to stop the heart working during the surgery and find means to get blood and oxygen to other parts of the body, but we don’t have the equipment to do that here.”

The total cost of Fatao’s surgery, including passport, visa, travel, the surgery itself and follow-up care, is $23,000.

When it comes to additional medical assistance like this, for things beyond normal preventative care (e.g., heart surgery, cancer, prosthetic limbs, traumatic injury, vision and hearing issues, etc.), our church partners have immediate access to $5,000 via our Medical Assistance Fund.

However, when the expenses associated with these special medical needs cost more than $5,000 the child development center pays for the additional expense by borrowing money from other areas of its budget and submits a proposal requesting more money be made available to them—money which at some point needs to be raised.

As our Child Sponsorship Program grows, we are serving more and more children and families who struggle to survive in extreme poverty; many of them have special medical needs. As a result, more of our partner churches are relying on the Medical Assistance Fund. In the past few years, requests for medical assistance have tripled.

As we did a few years ago with Alexander, we’re asking you for help. Please make a donation to help pay for Fatao’s heart surgery.

And if you prefer not to, please spread the word about Fatao’s situation. Pull out all the stops. And please keep Fatao in your prayers.

Thank you for loving this child.

Any money raised in addition to the $23,000 for Fatao’s surgery will be used to pay for similar surgeries for other children in our sponsorship program. Children like Alexander, Rossy and Victoria.


Fatao’s parents will not be traveling to India with him. They are trusting God that everything will turn out well.

I am not worried . . . All for me is about having hope and prayer. I pray for him to recover and come back to us. This is a matter of distance. If he were here, I would be there, but it’s too far. I will keep praying here so that he comes back to us. – Kone Lassina, Fatao’s father

I know that I cannot be there, so I am just praying that my son returns home well, and I am praying that we are all well, too. – Sanaou Pauline, Fatao’s mother

Fatao’s journey begins

While waiting for his heart surgery, Fatao plays with toy cars and dreams about using his new running shoes after heart surgery. He says that one day he is going to be the fastest athlete in Burkina Faso.

This 5 minute video explains how Fatao’s heart was repaired.

And this 7 minute video is an interview with Fatao’s doctor, Dr. Robert Coelho.

Here’s a glimpse at how Fatao was doing immediately after his surgery.

51 Comments |Add a comment

  1. sunjay kumar January 20, 2014

    I pray that Fatao has a full recovery and he does become the fastest athlete in Burkina Faso. We sponsor two children in Burkina Faso and know the desperate poverty that they live, we are so thankful for Compassion and for the opportunity these children have that they would not otherwise have had

  2. Serge Ismael OUEDRAOGO August 21, 2012

    Thank you all for the great love and care you show our young brother. I am just back from a field visit to the child’s family and I praise God for the improvement observed in the child’s life. May God bless you all for prayers and kind words!

    1. Jacquie Parella August 21, 2012

      Thanks for the update Serge! That is really great to hear.

  3. Sharmila Coelho August 9, 2012

    Does Compassion International work in India ?

    1. Jacquie Parella August 9, 2012

      Yes we do. Here’s some info: https://www.compassion.com/about/where/india.htm

      1. Sharmila Coelho August 19, 2012

        Thanks Jacquie.

  4. Cheri Duchrow May 2, 2012

    I love reading all of these comments and seeing the miracles that God works not only in Fatao’s journey but look how small he has made the world and brought us all together through mission and prayer. Praise the Lord and all you faithful followers!

  5. Nancy Coelho May 1, 2012

    Thank you Jacquie for all your prayers for Fatao and his doctor Dr. Robert. Dr. Robert is here in San Francisco attending American Association for Thoracic Surgery conference this week. Actually he has not seen the video or this blog yet. I’ll be showing this blog to him. He is spending a Week with my family here in Irvine CA after the conference in San Francisco. Any latest news from Fatao that i can tell him?
    Thanks, Nancy

    1. Jacquie Parella May 1, 2012

      Hi Nancy! Dr. Robert, and you of course, 🙂 can see the latest update on Fatao here: https://blog.compassion.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Fatao-is-Home.pdf. Thank you for sharing it with him. I hope he enjoys his conference and you all have a wonderful time together!

  6. Nancy Coelho April 11, 2012

    Hi everyone from Irvine California,
    I came across this blog by chance few weeks ago and then realized that the surgeon working on Fatao is my younger brother Robert. During Easter weekend I happened to talk to Robert; he was visiting our parents (dad 90 years) in Mangalore. He just took a flight from Chennai to Mangalore made a brief visit to our parents on Easter Sunday and back to work in Chennai. I can honestly say you will not find another surgeon who is so dedicated to his job; giving up everything else in life. We are from a humble middle class catholic family in Mangalore, India and Robert is the 6th child to our parents.

    1. Jacquie Parella April 11, 2012

      Nancy, your brother is such a blessing!!! We were praying for him as well as Fatao. I just got back from Rwanda and the hospital your brother operates out of was mentioned several times with great respect. We need more people in the world like him. God bless you Nancy and your entire family!

  7. Michelle April 11, 2012

    Thank you Jacquie! I’ve printed it and the page is being passed around between my children right now!

    1. Jacquie Parella April 11, 2012

      I am so glad!!! Don’t you just love seeing Fatao’s smile?!

  8. Michelle April 11, 2012

    Hello, I recieved the email telling me there is an update, but I have not been able to find it. Will you please post a link here in the comments?

    1. Jacquie Parella April 11, 2012

      The update is at the very top of the post. Here is a link to the pdf with all of the photos included: https://blog.compassion.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Fatao-is-Home.pdf

  9. Jacquie Parella April 10, 2012

    Hello again everyone! The latest update on Fatao has been posted, including a pdf link that details his homecoming with lots of photos. I know we have said thank you many times already, but we really can’t thank you enough for all of the prayers and support you offered Fatao. God bless you!

  10. Cindy April 4, 2012

    Please update us on Fatao’s progress if possible. We’ve been continuing to pray that he continues to heal and his heart relaxes to a normal shape and thickness now that it doesn’t have to work as hard. It would be wonderful to see how the Lord is answering our prayers. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to pray for this young man and his family.

    1. Jacquie Parella April 4, 2012

      Hi Cindy, Michelle and everyone! Fatao is home and doing really well. I apologize for the delayed update. I’m out of the country and have not been able to get online as I would like. I will post a more detailed update next week including photos.

  11. Michelle March 27, 2012

    My children have asked several times recently, how is Fatao? Has he returned to his home?

    We are continuing to pray for his recovery and for his parents to see the great love of God for all of their family.

    1. Jacquie Parella March 27, 2012

      Thanks for the ongoing prayers Michelle!! The last update we had was that he was recovering from surgery, doing really well and he should have gone back to Burkina Faso last week. I’ll do what I can to find out more for you.

  12. Chris Giovagnoni March 17, 2012

    According to Dr. Coelho, Fatao has made a very good recovery. Fatao’s stitches were removed yesterday, and the medical staff have completed all the pre-discharge follow-up (e.g., x-ray, echocardiogram, etc.) and all were normal. Fatao is fit to travel back to Burkina Faso early next week.

  13. Shaina March 17, 2012

    Any updates on Fatao???

  14. Reid Dumas March 17, 2012

    How is Fatao doing?

  15. Jacquie Parella March 10, 2012

    Well everyone, the $23,000 goal for Fatao’s surgery was met today! Anything raised above that amount will be earmarked for needed medical procedures of other sponsored children.

    May God bless you all for your generosity, prayers and encouragement for Fatao!

  16. Heidi Wanty March 10, 2012

    Praise God that Fatao is out of surgery and that his surgery went well. My husband Rich and I donated and it is so exciting to see the barometer getting so close to the goal needed. I pray that Fatao has a full recovery and he does become the fastest athlete in Burkina Faso. We sponsor two children in Burkina Faso and know the desperate poverty that they live, we are so thankful for Compassion and for the opportunity these children have that they would not otherwise have had.

  17. Hannah March 10, 2012

    Did not donate, but am praying for Fatao.
    ~Dear Fatao,
    I hope you heal soon so that you may become the fastest athlete in Burkina Faso! I hope God gives you a speedy recovery and that you have no more problems with your heart now.
    With Love,
    Hannah from the USA

  18. Christine March 10, 2012

    Oh, what good news to wake up to! Thank you!

  19. Chris Giovagnoni March 9, 2012

    We just got word that Fatao is out of surgery. Everything went well! We will have more info soon

  20. Christine March 9, 2012

    This is such a blessing, to know how much Compassion sponsors love these children! Thank you for posting this–for asking us to be a part of the miracle. And thank you for the updates.

  21. Chris Giovagnoni March 9, 2012

    $19,281 is the current donation total. Also, Fatao is going to be having his surgery tonight, probably around 8 p.m. MT. Please pray that everything goes well.

  22. Jacquie Parella March 9, 2012

    Hi Everyone! Just wanted to let you know the latest total for Fatao’s surgery is $18,735! Thank you ALL for your donations, prayers and for sharing Fatao’s story with others. We’ll post another update as soon as we have one.

  23. Chris Giovagnoni March 9, 2012

    Several thousand dollars came in overnight. The total you’ve donated currently stands at $17,384. Thank you so much.

  24. HisFireFly – Karin Fendick March 8, 2012

    I was not able to write a letter from my donation page either —

    Dear Fatao,
    We will be praying as you go through your surgery, knowing that God loves you and wants to heal your heart. He will be with you each and every minute. We know that your Mom and Dad miss you very much and wish they were there, but you will see them soon. God’s hand is holding you tight.
    All our love,
    Rick & Karin

    1. Jacquie Parella March 9, 2012

      Thank you Rick and Karin!! I will make sure the team gets this!

  25. Chris Giovagnoni March 8, 2012

    And now we’re at $10,394. The thermometer on compassion.com hasn’t been updated and may not be updated until tomorrow.

  26. Chris Giovagnoni March 8, 2012

    Our fundraising thermometer was just updated. The total is now $6,492.

  27. Lizzie March 8, 2012

    I will be praying for Fatao. It must be very scary for him to go away from his parents. I cannot donate because I don’t have any money, but could you please tell him- I am praying for you, that you will have a quick recovery and that it will all go well. You are such a brave boy!-thanks.
    Lizzie 🙂

    1. Jacquie Parella March 8, 2012

      Lizzie, you are so awesome!! I will be sure to pass this on! 🙂

      1. Lizzie March 8, 2012

        thanks soo much 🙂

  28. Lindy March 8, 2012

    Thank you for helping Fatao! We are praying for him, for his doctors, and for his family. Nahum 1:7

  29. Chris Giovagnoni March 7, 2012

    We will soon have a thermometer on the donation page on compassion.com that tracks our progress toward the $23,000 goal. For now, I’m pleased to say that $3,142 was raised in one day. Thank you so much.

  30. Christina March 7, 2012

    Our baby just had his VSD repaired, it was a third the size of his heart and he was on many of the same medications. It was $144,000.00 just for the surgery. I will keep Fatao and his family in my prayers!

  31. Angie March 7, 2012

    Please, everyone….even a small donation will help. I donated yesterday and sent a message today. Keeping this little fellow in my prayers. God is this family’s comfort.

  32. Chris Giovagnoni March 7, 2012

    I made a correction to the blog post. I had originally indicated the Fatao had nine siblings. That was my mistake. He actually has five siblings, all brothers. I apologize for the inaccuracy.

  33. Gary Hall March 6, 2012

    I will do whatever it is that I have to do to help you guys.

  34. Stephanie March 6, 2012

    I just donated to help Fatao-I hope he will be alright and be a healthy boy after surgery 🙂

    1. Jacquie Parella March 6, 2012

      Thank you for your kindness and generosity Stephanie! We’ll be posting updates on how is doing so please check back.

  35. Judie March 6, 2012

    Compassion has wonderful sponsors and donors, I know Fatao will received this lifesaving surgery. If every sponsor or donor gave $1 today we could raise $23,000 in no time at all.

    1. Debbie Beghetto March 6, 2012

      I agree with you. I had a heart surgery -a hole in the heart just like Fatao. I was then a baby but didn’t fix it cuz it was too small so they close it. As I grew, God created me a new heart by His Love. So I shall send my blessing to Fatao. Amen.

  36. Jessica March 6, 2012

    Hi, I wasn’t able to leave a message on my donation page. I want to let Fatao know How much I pray that he will get the surgery he needs, and make a quick and full recovery. God bless bless you Fatao.

    1. Jacquie Parella March 6, 2012

      Thank you for your note Jessica. I will make sure your message is passed on to the team reading these messages to Fatao!

Add a Comment

Read the ground rules for comments.