A month ago, 6-year old Sanchir Purvee could not run and jump like healthy children his age. He could hardly even walk.
Today, however, the frail boy from Mongolia who was born with a hole in his heart is doing just fine, according to Frank Bondietti of Farmingdale Rotary, who helped the child receive successful heart surgery in New York City through the club's Gift of Life program.
"This was the first kid that I got involved with," Bondietti said of the boy, who returned to Mongolia last week. "It's just a very moving experience to see what gets done, how it gets done, and then to see afterwards, that this kid is A-Okay now."
In order to help many more children like Sanchir, the Rotary district comprising Nassau, Queens and Brooklyn is currently planning a fund raiser to benefit Gift of Life. The Rotary District 7250 fund raiser will take place April 4 at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan.
Gift of Life is a nonprofit Rotarian organization that is administered by over 30 districts nationwide. Since its inception in 1974, it has helped over 1500 children, according to Bill Metzendorf, who is director and officer of Gift of Life in District 7250. Each Rotary district administers the program autonomously, he said.
Rotarians help the children, most of whom are from overseas, by arranging for their stay in America and surgery, and by providing any funding needed. For example, Bondietti picked up Sanchir and his parents from the airport upon his arrival in New York, and accompanied them during hospital visits. Each surgery costs a minimum of $30,000, and can reach beyond $50,000, although donations by doctors and hospitals who participate in Gift of Life offset the costs substantially, according to Metzendorf. The doctors who perform the surgery on the child donate their time, and the hospital discounts the rate of the child's stay, he said, noting that every hospital in the metropolitan area with pediatric open heart surgery capabilities participates.
As part of their Gift of Life program, Rotarians from District 7250 travel oversees with doctors and interpreters in order to screen sick children and judge whether the program could help them. Metzendorf, who recently came back from such a mission in Moscow, said he and a team of two cardiologists and two interpreters screened about 300 children. They determined that 150 of them could be participants in Gift of Life.
The purpose of the screening process is to see whether the children are well enough to travel and if they would survive surgery. Explaining the importance of this process, Metzendorf said, "We've got limited hospital funds; we've got limited hospital space," adding that the program aims to help the largest amount of children possible with limited resources. Rotary District 7250, which helps about 80 children per year, is the only district which uses such a process, he said.
Like Bondietti, Metzendorf, who has been participating in the program for 10 years, has been moved by the children he has encountered. "It's a very grabbing type of a program," he said. The children need the program's help, he said, because their native countries do not have the quality of medical resources that are available here. For example, he noted that Russia has the doctors but not the proper facilities to help them. "They are horrendous," he said of the hospitals he saw there.
Tickets are still available for the April 4 Gift of Life fund raiser. The honoree for the evening will be actress Connie Stevens. The cost of each ticket for the black tie affair is $175. Because the entire cost of the affair has been underwritten by sponsors, the money from the ticket, Metzendorf said, "goes directly to helping a child."