When Amelika* was 12 years old, she noticed that something was wrong. She would lose her breath walking from the living room to her bedroom, and she was constantly feeling weak and lethargic. By the time she was 14 years old, she was diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease (RHD) by an Open Heart International team during a screening trip to Tonga, where Amelika lives.
Amelika’s heart was functioning at 36 per cent and would only continue to deteriorate. Without surgery, Amelika would die. But the local hospitals were unable to repair the hole in her heart and travelling to Australia for treatment exceeds $A60,000—far beyond what most people can afford.
And so, on her 14th birthday, Amelika prayed for a miracle.
“Jesus, I want to live, I want to be a foreign missionary like You,” she prayed. “I want to be adopted into Your family and inherit eternal life in a body that cannot break down and a heart that will never leak again. Renew my heart, fix the leak, give me Your strength to live with hope, faith and love no matter how many days I have left.”
In September, Amelika was granted the miracle she prayed for. She received life-saving surgery thanks to an Open Heart International volunteer surgical team.
The surgeons replaced Amelika’s faulty aortic valve with an Edwards Lifescience Inspiris Resillia Valve. This high-tech solution will expand as Amelika grows, meaning decades of healthy, stress-free living.
“My prayer or wish on my birthday was fulfilled to the letter,” Amelika said. “Today, I am truly ‘adopted’ into God’s family and receive an inheritance of new life, with a renewed heart. I will be a missionary after all.”
Amelika is one of the hundreds of patients who have received surgery in the 38 years since Open Heart International was established. While visiting his missionary parents in Tonga in 1985, Russell Lee witnessed the lack of surgical options for those dying of heart disease. Alongside Rudi Morgan and Dr John Wallace, all of whom worked at Sydney Adventist Hospital at the time, the trio volunteered their time and knowledge to make a difference for those without access to best medical practice. By 1986, they had succeeded in fundraising, acquiring the necessary equipment, and coordinating a small group of Sydney Adventist Hospital medical and nursing staff to travel to Tonga. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, Open Heart International is a partnership between ADRA Australia and Sydney Adventist Hospital, with a purpose that remains the same all these years later: to gift surgical best practice to the most disadvantaged communities on the planet.
Your gift this Christmas can save a life and heal a heart for children like Amelika, giving them a second chance. Donate today at ohi.org.au/christmas.
* Name changed for child protection purposes.
Ashley Stanton is the Media and communications senior officer at ADRA Australia.