Uninsured Arizona woman gets help from surgeon, non-profit group - Fox 2 News Headlines

Surgeon, non-profit group help uninsured Arizona woman with heart surgery

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Anahi Romero and Dr. Dr. Chris Gray Anahi Romero and Dr. Dr. Chris Gray

An uninsured young valley woman gets the surgery that could prolong her life.

The 20-year-old was born with a hole in her heart.

Without insurance, the major surgery could cost well over $100,000, but thanks to a non-profit group, the surgery took place a day before her 20th birthday.

Anahi Romero had open heart surgery just one week ago.

"I had a hold in my heart and it was pumping too much blood in my lungs," she said.

A few years ago, she was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect.  For the untrained eye, it is tough to see, but on a sonogram, doctors noticed a hole about the size of a quarter on the upper portion of her heart.

Doctors told Anahi she'd have to have surgery or face a lifetime of potential problems, but she doesn't have insurance.

"I was worried.. where am I going to get the money to pay for a surgery like this?"

Anahi and her family turned to Gift of Life of Arizona.

"That is our mission to help needy children worldwide who are born with congenital heart defects," said Gift of Life AZ's Gina Guglielmo.

The organization recruits hospitals and surgeons willing to donate their time and resources to help uninsured children like Anahi.

"Many of these kids with certain heart defects.. they are time sensitive. Time is the enemy and if you don't get certain defects fixed before a certain time, there is permanent damage and then there is nothing that can be done," explained Guglielmo.

Pediatric heart surgeon Dr. Chris Gray performed the surgery at Banner Cardon Children's Medical Center in Mesa.

"She underwent a four hour procedure where we did open heart surgery," he said.  "And then closed the hole with a patch, like your mom would sow a patch in your jeans."

The patch on Anahi's heart should last a lifetime.

"This was a wonderful gift that we were able to share with her," said Gray.  "It all makes it worthwhile when you get to take care of a patient like Anahi."

She hopes to now go to college and restart the life she put on hold.

"My life practically got extended and I am so thankful to them, to Banner to Gift of Life."

Gift of Life of Arizona helps cover some of the costs of the procedures though donations. They only cover children and right now, throughout the organization, they have a waiting list of about a dozen kids who need help.

Gift of Life - Arizona, Inc.

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