Clara prepares for open heart surgery

Ultrasound of Clara's heart showing large hole

For the last few weeks, most of our news has been about the upcoming development conference that we are sponsoring and construction of the new clinic on the coast.

However, yesterday, Friday October 3rd, was a big day for us for other reasons. Yesterday, Clara was hospitalized in preparation for her open heart surgery.

For both Clara and for Wuqu’ Kawoq, this is a big day. For Clara, it means that she has a chance for finally fixing the heart condition that has kept her nearly bedridden for the last 5 years. For Wuqu’ Kawoq, although we have a number of children who have had heart surgery, this will be our first adult patient to have an open heart surgery.

Clara is a wonderful 40 year old patient who we met for the first time 2 years ago. We had been asked to make a house call by her husband, who came to our clinic saying that his wife was very sick with a heart problem and could hardly walk.

Indeed, that first meeting was very dramatic. Clara was sitting straight up in bed, hardly able to breathe, and even swinging her legs over the edge of the bed would make her short of breath for 15 minutes.

Of course, we quickly set about figuring out what was wrong with her. We gave her medications to reduce the fluid overload on her heart. Almost instantly, she began to feel better and, within a few weeks, we had a definitive answer: Clara had been borne with a large hole in her heart, called an atrial septal defect, which was flooding her lungs with blood and overworking her heart.

In another country, with a functioning primary care system, an atrial septal defect would be picked up in childhood and quickly corrected. However, in Guatemala, where there are few pediatricians and no such thing as “checkups”, Clara made it into her forties before the condition was finally diagnosed by us.

In collaboration with our friends at UNICAR (the cardiovascular surgery center in Guatemala City) we set about the long process of getting Clara ready for an operation to repair the hole in her heart. The entire process of optimizing her medications and performing dental work and other necessary health clearance has taken almost a year.

Yesterday Clara was admitted to the hospital. She will spend a few days having some additional medications adjusted there, and she will have her surgery on Friday.

All told, the process of getting Clara ready for surgery has taken hundreds of hours of work by Wuqu’ Kawoq doctors, social workers, and other staff members, as well as several thousand dollars. But this is what we do: we provide high quality health care to those in need, even when their conditions are so complex that others might say that they have no chance.

Providing Clara, and many others like Clara, with the medical care they need, currently costs Wuqu’ Kawoq about $3,000 per month. We rely on donors and supporters like you to help us keep these essential programs going.

If you are already a sustaining donor to these programs, thank you so much for your compassion and collaboration.

If you are not, would you consider becoming a sustaining donor today? We ask that you pledge a minimum amount of $10 per month. Sign up today at

Thanks for listening, Peter