AUSTIN (KXAN) - Leonise Louima, the 10-year-old orphan from Haiti who came to Austin for life-saving heart surgery, will no longer have to undergo an operation thanks to a less-invasive procedure that repaired the open blood vessel.
"Oh, we are so relieved," said Yvrance Joseph Volcy, who is hosting Leonise and her Aunt Shella during their brief stay in Texas.
Dr. Karen Wright, a pediatric intervention cardiologist at Dell Children's Hospital, was able to plug the open blood vessel in the girl's heart with an occluder.
The tiny plug was guided into the heart via a catheter and sheath, and only took about an hour.
Louima learned when she was 8 that she born with a heart defect known as "patent ductus arteriosus." PDA occurs when a blood vessel called the ductus arteriosus fails to close normally in an infant soon after birth.
The condition leads to abnormal blood flow between the aorta and pulmonary artery – two major vessels that carry blood from the heart.
Wright said most children born in the United States are diagnosed with this condition shortly after birth because doctors here have the tools to hear the faint murmurs.
Since Haiti was devastated by an earthquake in January 2010, high-tech medical care is not available.
Clutching her new teddy bear, Meknu, and a cross, Leonise Louima, 10, arrived at Dell Children's Hospital at 6 a.m. Monday.
"I am good," said Leonise in French Creole. Her host mother, Yvrance Joseph Volcy served as her translator.
Leonise spent most of her childhood coughing and with fatigue. As her brother, sisters and cousins played in Haiti, she just didn't have the energy.
As doctors and nurses prepared Leonise for a life-saving heart procedure, the third-grader colored and clutched her bear.
Her Aunt Shella, however, while remaining stoic at first, did break down and cry.
"It is emotional," said Shella. Volcy said that Shella, who speaks very little English, was happy and thanking God.
Around 7:30 a.m., doctors led Leonise to a cath lab. She broke down in tears on the way in and grabbed her aunt for support. The cause for fear was real.
"She would likely and most certainly have died at an early age because of heart failure because of stress on the heart," explained Wright.
But now, instead of recovering from major surgery, Leonise could be outside playing this weekend.
"Leonise and her Aunt Shella are nice people and I hope we can all get to know them better in their short time here," said Alison Meador, director of external relations for Heartgift Foundation .
Leonise lost both her parents. Her father died in 2001; her mother in 2005.
Leonise, Yvrance and Shella are relying on song to get them through this week.
"God and Father, God and Father, we thank you, we thank you," Yvrance and Leonise both sang in unison.
Leonise and her aunt will head back to Haiti next week.
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