Young mother has a heart in need of repair

Jan 20, 2016

Left to right ... Irmalinda, Karen, Daylin, Allison and Hector

From left … Irmalinda, Karen, Daylin, Allison and Hector

By Laura Sumner Coon

One of the most smiley infants is looped around her mother’s arm. She kicks and coos, and smiles at everyone who passes by on this 97-degree day. It is obvious from the demeanor of little Daylin and her 5-year old brother, Hector, that their 26-year-old mother, Karen Marriela Sanchez, is a doting, loving parent.

Trouble is, as big as her mothering heart is, it is defective. There are two holes in her heart that have likely been there since she was a child. She has always been thin, easily tires and is out of breath.

It wasn’t until she was pregnant with Daylin and had an ultrasound that her heart ailment was discovered. Yet, Karen remembers these symptoms as a child, but there was no money for a doctor visit. After the ultrasound discovered the symptoms, Karen, who lives in Cinco Palos, was sent to the Esquintla Hospital, about 3.5 hours away from home, for an echocardiogram. Once confirmed, she was destined to make the trip every two weeks during her pregnancy.

At seven months pregnant, the doctors said Karen needed to deliver the baby by caesarian section so that her heart would not fail. Daylin was 4.3 pounds at birth, and the hospital told her to continue nursing the newborn until she could have heart surgery, which would be 100,000 quetzals, or more than $13,000. As a poor homemaker with a farm working husband, the hospital could have just sentenced her to a slow death.

Then, Karen met Floridalma Quintanilla,“Flory,” to everyone.

“I am feeling so relieved,” she said Monday at the GMRP Clinic. “I was afraid they were going to let me die.”

Instead, Flory is an advocate for patients like Karen. Flory urged her to come to the clinic and have the doctors examine her and make a referral for surgery. With her negotiating skills, Flory has been able to get the hospital to charge only 10 percent of the cost. The GMRP will pick up what the family can’t pay.

For now, Karen lives with a veil of fear, wondering if she might die before they can schedule the surgery. But medical providers agree, Karen should be the priority surgery following this week’s clinic.

“I am very happy and relieved that you have come to help me,” she said.

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