Little Marvin Naanai and Tabiria Nomeneta are alive, well and at home with their parents on far distant Christmas Island in the central Pacific following life-saving heart surgery in Dallas, Texas last month, thanks to the collaborative efforts of many kind, helpful volunteers.
The road to recovery for Marvin, 2, and Tabiria, 18 months old, began with a diagnosis on Christmas Island earlier this year by volunteer cardiologist Dr. Steven Compton of the Alaska Heart Institute in which he said each child was so sick they each required urgent heart surgery.
“We didn’t think little Marvin would live long enough to reach help in the United States,” said local medical officer in charge on Christmas Island , Dr. Teraira Bangao.
Stepping forward was a remarkable organization called HeartGift and their Dallas chapter’s president, Barbara Johnson.
“Barbara cleared the way for surgeries for both children at Dallas Children’s Medical Center and told us to bring them on,” said Carlton Smith, president of Pacific Islands Medical Aid, Inc. “The surgeons, nurses and everyone at Children’s Medical Center were great.”
With proper documentation, U.S. Visa waivers were issued on humanitarian grounds for the children and their care-taker mothers by the really helpful folks at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Smith said.
Costs of airfare from Christmas Island in the central Pacific to Honolulu and onward to Dallas and return was made available by Mending Kids International of Burbank, Calif., and American Airlines Miles for Kids, for which we are extremely grateful, Smith said.
Host mother for Marvin and her mother was Ms. Marietta Johnson, Barbara’s mother in law.
The United Methodist Church in Frisco, Texas, with the help of members Catherine Pat Fowler and host family Lara and Doug Edwards provided housing, meals, transportation and lots of love.
Translation services for both children’s mothers and their surgeons were provided by Anna and John Bryden, a wonderful I-Kiribati family from Christmas Island who happened to be on business in Honolulu at the time, and who were connected to the hospital in Dallas by cell phone.
The children and their mothers are back home now, following successful heart surgery with the prospects that each child will now have a normal, full life.
Island Doctor Offers Thanks …
Dr. Teraira Bangao, medical officer in charge for the Line Islands, sent a note once the children were returned home:
“The father of Marvin is very happy to see his boy returned back healthy. He is lost for words and asks me to convey his great appreciation to all who helped his son. He said Marvin and Mom puts on a lots of weight. Marvin is very healthy.
I thought initially that Marvin would not make it to the States. When his attacks would come, they were quite severe. I saw him last Friday and he is very healthy.
May I take this opportunity, on behalf of the Kiribati Ministry of Health, to thank everyone who has given a life-saving hand to this poor little boy.”
About Tabiria, Dr. Bangao writes that “I saw her the day after she arrived home. She is very healthy now. The heart sounds are perfect.
You are all wonderful guys. Bless you all,” he said.