Angel Heart International (AHI) 2016 Gansu volunteer trip took place from July 30th to August 3rd. Since AHI’s partnering hospital, Department of Cardiovascular Surgery of Gansu Province People’s Hospital, held a medical conference in July, we combined our usual two summer trips together to accommodate the doctors’ busy schedule. As a result, this year’s program consisted of the largest Gansu visiting group in AHI’s history, with 39 youth and parent volunteers — 30 from the US and 9 from Shanghai.
The trip started with the usual pre-surgery hospital visit. Three children were scheduled to receive surgery on August 1rst: Kang Heng, a 5-year-old boy; Wang Meng, a 5-year-old girl; and Zhang Jiale, a 6-year-old boy. Volunteers greeted the children and families and gave gifts to the patients. AHI volunteer Bryan Lu found a special connection with Wang Meng over their shared talent for art, and the two promised to exchange drawings after her operation. Volunteers also visited Ma Zuoling, a 7-year-old girl recovering from surgery.
On July 31rst, the volunteers attended AHI’s annual reunion with previous patients and families at the Dingxi Hospital for Chinese Medicine. Veteran AHI volunteer Dr. Zhang Rui, head of Dingxi’s medical administration office and known by AHI volunteers as Principal Zhang, hosted the meeting. Pacific Academy and Edwards Lifesciences, key sponsors of AHI, were invited to make a special speech during the reunion. Sharing their mutual support and compassion, AHI volunteers who walked alongside our patients in their path to recovery took to the podium as well.
In 2016, AHI awarded a record high number of scholarships. Six of AHI’s previous patients received the scholarship: Wang Bangzhou (received surgery in 2010), Zhu Lina (received surgery in 2009), and Qi Jingjing (received surgery in 2014) received the college scholarship award of 5000 RMB. Liu Weijun (received surgery in 2008), Zhang Hongxia (received surgery in 2010 and award from 2015’s special scholarship campaign (http://angelheartintl.org/13.html), and Ran Lihong (received surgery in 2008) were awarded the high school scholarship of 2000 RMB. More than 200 people attended the reunion, making for our largest group photo yet and a warmth-filled volunteer and patient get-together after the official meeting. After the reunion, the volunteer group conducted a family visit to potential patient Zhu Ke’s home. Zhu Ke is a 5-month-old boy diagnosed with Atrial Septal Defect and Ventricular Septal Defect. Due to his very young age, surgery will be arranged after he grows to over 18 lbs. in weight in order to minimize the surgery risk.
Volunteers spent the final two hours in Dingxi arranging technical school enrollment for Wang Chunhua (received surgery in 2012). After securing enrollment at Weinan Rail Transportation School, Chunhua will be awarded AHI’s seventh scholarship of 2016 for continuing education. Her dream is to become a staff member on the bullet train.
Three surgeries were performed on August 1rst: Kang Heng, Wang Meng, and Zhang Jiale. The volunteers organized into three groups to accompany each patient’s family during the surgery. Kang Heng’s and Wang Meng’s surgeries began in the morning, followed by Zhang Jiale’s procedure. Kang Heng’s surgery went smoothly, and he was back in the ICU shortly after noontime. Zhang Jiale’s and Wang Meng’s surgeries were more difficult than expected. Wang Meng’s surgery did not finish until late afternoon while it was near evening before Zhang Jiale’s surgery was complete. It was very difficult time for the families, and AHI volunteers did their best to accompany and comfort the families.
Unfortunately, Wang Meng developed complications later and passed away at 1:30AM on August 2nd due to cardiac system failure. AHI’s volunteers were shocked and saddened to receive the news of Wang Meng’s passing in the early morning. Wang Meng’s passing was the first failed patient surgery in AHI’s nine year history of supporting CHD children. Upon discussion with AHI leadership, the previously scheduled family visit and follow-up visit on August 2nd were cancelled in order for AHI to provide as much help as possible to Wang Meng’s family. In this difficult time, our hearts and prayers are with Wang Meng’s family for their loss. Wang Meng was a lovely and compassionate girl, and no words can fully express our condolences to the family and the feeling of loss of all our volunteers involved.
After seeing the rapidly recovering Kang Heng and Zhang Jiale on August 3rd, the 2016 AHI summer Gansu trip drew to a close. However, the loss of Wang Meng heavily lingered in every volunteer’s heart.
AHI asks our supporters and volunteers to pray for our little angel’s soul and for her family during this unbearable time. We vow to continue our commitment and support for underserved CHD children against the high risk of the cardiac surgery that is essential to saving their lives. Going forwards, we are more dedicated than ever to helping our partners advance their technology and reduce such risks through our medical care program.