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Hearts Afire

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Winter 1998
Hearts Afire
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That situation has eased a bit in recent years. A nonprofit organization founded in 1996 by the eldest daughter of Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, the Fundacion Peruana Cardioinfantil -- Peruvian Foundation for Infant Cardiology -- is working to provide necessary resources to pay for the medical treatment of children whose families cannot afford care. Still, the need is well beyond the current resources of the foundation. Thus far, the foundation has paid for about 280 operations, but each year in Peru an estimated 9,000 children are newly diagnosed with heart disease.

"Let's not kid ourselves," Alejos says. "The dozen or so children we operate on in the short time we are here isn't going to change anything. But my goal is to continue building on this effort so these doctors can learn how to perform these procedures without our help. We know that what we are doing is not going to fix the world, and we are not going to save every child. But we can make a small dent. We have to do the best that we can."

And that seems to be recompense enough for the medicos who volunteer to join Alejos on his treks of mercy -- that and smiles and tears on the faces of the mothers whose children they have just saved.

"It has been one of the most rewarding, wonderful experiences of my life," says Sadeghi. "It makes me feel privileged to do what I do. To save the life of a child who otherwise might not have had a chance to live, and to see the joy and gratitude in the eyes of the mothers and fathers goes beyond anything I have experienced."

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