Arrive in U.S. exhausted and needing heart help.

Children from Tarawa Get Heart Surgery

For the parents of 2 year old Iotua Nenetaake and Bwabwane Meeia, 10, it’s a dream come true that their children have been saved, thanks to the efforts of Pacific Islands Medical Aid, the leader of HeartGift Texas and heart surgeon Dr. Camile Hancock Friesen at Dell Childrens’ Medical Center of Central Texas in Austin.

Ready to Go Home - Children from Tarawa in Kiribati are ready to go home after successful heart surgery in Austin, Texas. Sitting between children is their heart surgeon, Dr. Camile Hancock Friesen of Dell Childrens Medical Center of Central Texas. Second from right is Sonya Keeling, International Director of HeartGift of Texas, who arranged help for the children. Others include parents of the children and Kiribati Ministry of Health nurse/translator.

Ready to Go Home – Children from Tarawa in Kiribati are ready to go home after successful heart surgery in Austin, Texas. Sitting between children is their heart surgeon, Dr. Camile Hancock Friesen of Dell Childrens Medical Center of Central Texas. Second from right is Sonya Keeling, International Director of HeartGift of Texas, who arranged help for the children. Others include parents of the children and Kiribati Ministry of Health nurse/translator.

The children, their mothers and Kiribati Ministry of Health nurse have now all returned to their home island of Tarawa in the Central Pacific following successful heart repair surgery for both children.

Congenital heart problems for each child were first discovered by our volunteer heart team leader, cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. David Moore of Baylor Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas and his team, traveling to far-away Tarawa last year.

Surgery was made possible with the help and leadership of Ms. Sonya Keeling, national patient coordinator for HeartGift Texas, who’s efforts made it possible for the children to come to Dell Childrens’ Medical Center.

Ms. Keeling said both children “were amazing in their recovery from surgery. Having them here has been such a great experience for all of us involved,” she said.