Life-Saving Journey Leads Nine-Month-Old from Africa to Austin for Critical Heart Surgery

HeartGift, Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas, Samaritan's Purse and Two Caring Austin Families Work Together to Save a Ugandan Baby's Life

Nine-month-old Fortune is recovering in the pediatric intensive care unit at Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas, after surgery on Wednesday to patch two holes in his heart. Fortune, accompanied by his mother and a translator, flew the nearly 10,000 miles to Austin because the life-saving treatment he needed was unavailable in his home country of Uganda.

Fortune was suffering from congenital heart defects and had two holes in his heart chambers known as atrial and ventricular septal defects (ASD, VSD). These conditions prevented oxygenated blood from properly flowing to his vital organs and tissues. If left untreated, doctors say Fortune would not have survived to adulthood.

Through a collaborative effort with the Austin-based HeartGift Foundation, the Regional Heart Program of Dell Children's Medical Center and the international Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse, Fortune was able to receive the surgery he desperately needed to close the holes and fix his heart.

"This was a family who had almost given up hope because they knew it was only a matter of time before Fortune would have died from his heart condition," said Cindy Bonsall, director of Children's Heart Project at Samaritan's Purse. "Now he has received the treatment he needed from the expert team at Dell Children's Medical and is on his way to recovering."

Fortune's congenital heart defects were identified during a screening in Kampala, Uganda, through Children's Heart Project, which is a project of Samaritan''s Purse. Children's Heart Project has provided surgery for more than 776 children, including 158 from Uganda. Samaritan’s Purse arranged for Fortune and his mother to stay with two Austin host families. The Hines and Patterson families volunteered to host Fortune and his mother for their six-week stay. In addition to opening their homes, the host families are also providing transportation to and from the hospital for the surgery and follow-up doctor visits.

"The United States has hundreds of medical centers with specialists to treat children who have heart disease," said Lisa Rodman, director of the HeartGift Foundation. "Sadly, the majority of countries around the world lack even a single facility capable of open-heart surgery. The physicians at HeartGift volunteer their time to care for these children."



    • Dr. Kenneth Fox, the cardiovascular surgeon who performed Fortune's open-heart surgery, and Dr. Karen Wright, Fortune's pediatric cardiologist, both of the Regional Heart Program at Dell Children's Medical Center

    • Fortune's mother or the Austin host families

    • Lisa Rodman, director of HeartGift, or Cindy Bonsall, director of Children’s Heart Project for Samaritan's Purse

  • COVER Fortune's recovery process at Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas

About HeartGift
The HeartGift Foundation, headquartered in Austin, Texas, with chapters in New Orleans, San Antonio and Houston, brings children from around the world to the United States for surgery to correct life-threatening heart defects. These children come to the States because their home countries lack adequate health care, and they leave with repaired hearts and a new sense of hope for the future. To learn more about HeartGift, visit or follow us on Twitter @HeartGiftNews.

About Children's Heart Project
Children’s Heart Project, a project of international Christian relief and evangelism organization Samaritan's Purse, is led by Franklin Graham. Children’s Heart Project has brought more than 740 children to North America to receive life-saving heart surgery and treatments currently unavailable in their home countries. The project screens and identifies children in Uganda, Mongolia, Bolivia and Honduras who are suffering from congenital heart defects and needing surgery, locates doctors and hospitals in North America willing to donate their medical services, arranges for host families and accompanies the children, their mothers and an interpreter to North America—furnishing round-trip transportation. To find out more information or to make a donation, visit

About Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas
Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, a member of the Seton Healthcare Family, is a premier health care provider for children and adolescents. Dell Children's is the only dedicated freestanding pediatric facility in the region and is the only Level I Pediatric Trauma Center in Central Texas serving a 46-county area and beyond.

The Seton Healthcare Family is the leading provider of comprehensive, advanced health care services in Central Texas. As a growing center for medical research and education, Seton is increasing access to quality care—part of its mission to improve the health of all Central Texans, with special concern for the poor and the vulnerable.

Seton's 25 clinical locations include five major medical centers, two community hospitals, two rural hospitals, an inpatient mental health hospital, three primary care clinics for the uninsured and several strategically located health facilities that provide medical care for well patients.

Seton is a member of Ascension Health, the largest not-for-profit health network in the nation.