Three-Year-Old Boy from Uganda Receives Life-Saving Heart Surgery in Nashville

International Christian Relief Organization Samaritan's Purse Partners with Vanderbilt Children's Hospital to Help Save Child’s Life

The outlook for three-year-old Ian was grim. Not only was he a child of impoverished parents in Uganda, he was also suffering from a congenital heart defect called Ventricular Septal Defect. While the surgery needed to correct this condition is routinely performed in the United States, such surgery is not widely available in Uganda. But thanks to the efforts of international relief organization Samaritan's Purse and doctors at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, Ian received life-saving surgery on May 8.

Before surgery, Ian was nearing the point of being deemed inoperable. Now he has the opportunity to play and enjoy life like other children his age. Ian arrived in Nashville, Tennessee, on May 1, after traveling from Uganda with his aunt and an interpreter. The group is staying with a local host family from Otter Creek Church of Christ in Brentwood, Tennessee. The Allen family—whose seven-year-old son had heart surgery at Vanderbilt in 2007—is providing food, lodging, transportation to medical appointments and emotional support for Ian and his aunt during their time in the United States

“Our seven-year-old son, Jackson, had heart surgery when he was only one-week-old,” said host mom Juliette Allen. “That’s why it is such an honor to open our home to another family facing a similar journey. We are so thankful that Jackson is happy and healthy, and we know this surgery has provided the same opportunity for Ian.”

Our passion is helping children like Ian who have no hope of receiving treatment without the help of a North American hospital,” said Cindy Bonsall, director of Samaritan’s Purse’s Children’s Heart Project. “We are so thankful to Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt and the people at Otter Creek Church of Christ who partnered with Samaritan’s Purse and volunteered their time to give Ian a second chance at life.”



  • Cindy Bonsall, director of Samaritan's Purse Children's Heart Project

  • Vanderbilt physicians who performed Ian's surgery:

    • Dr. Brett Mettler, pediatric cardiac surgeon

    • Dr. Donald Moore, pediatric cardiologist

  • Ian's aunt who traveled with him from Uganda

  • J.R. and Juliette Allen who are volunteering as Ian's host family


  • Ian's post-op appointments

  • Post-recovery outings with the host family

About Children’s Heart Project
Children’s Heart Project is a ministry of the international Christian relief and evangelism organization Samaritan’s Purse, which is led by Franklin Graham. The project screens and identifies children suffering from congenital heart defects and in need of surgery; locates physicians 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, visit

About  Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, a freestanding hospital dedicated to serving only children, is nationally recognized as a leading provider of pediatric health care services. Experts treat and work to prevent all health issues ranging from common childhood conditions to serious, advanced diseases. Featuring Centers of Excellence for the treatment of diabetes and congenital heart disorders, Children’s Hospital also operates the region’s only level 1 pediatric trauma unit and a neonatal intensive care unit with the highest designated level of care. In addition, Children’s Hospital is a top-level teaching and research facility. No child is denied care on basis of limited ability to pay.