Heart defects are the most common birth defects according to the CDC. In countries outside of the United States, it is not common practice to fix congenital heart defects, but a group of Texas doctors wanted to change that.
In June 2000, HeartGift was founded in Austin, TX. Ten years later, it had established chapters in San Antonio, Houston and, finally, Louisiana. The mission statement, to provide life-saving heart surgery to children around the world, was made possible through hours of pro-bono operations and fundraising events. In the past 20 years, over 400 children from around the world.
Stephanie Berault, Executive Director of HeartGift Louisiana, started working with the organization by sponsoring and hosting mothers and their children when they came to receive surgery. The child and one parent, typically the mother, are flown in, housed and taken complete care of from a local family for the duration of their stay until the child is ready to go home and live a normal, healthy life.
“It’s amazing to see the growth and the faith of the children and mothers change throughout the time they are receiving care,” said Berault. “Every child who comes through our program leaves with a full life ahead of them they they would not otherwise have.”
Since 2010, the Louisiana Chapter has provided care for children across Africa, South America and India at Children’s Hospital New Orleans. In 2017, a new CEO and President joined the CHNOLA team and made it possible for even more children to be served.
John Nickens, CHNOLA CEO and President’s, first impression of HeartGift was that it was an incredible organization. “My first day was November 1 and by the third, I was meeting with Stephanie to share HeartGift’s vision and ensure my support,” said Nickens. It was obvious that the organization was a vital part of the CHNOLA community.
“They told me their stories with the children and I became so excited, my wife and I even hosted a family,” said Nickens. With Louisiana ranking 50th in pediatric health, Nickens was intent on bringing transformation to the hospital.
It costs $25,000 on average to provide care and surgery for a child. Across all chapters, the clinical and business aspects of the hospitals collaborate to succeed in saving children without access to medical care. The Louisiana Chapter relies on two major events to provide funding for their children: a golf tournament and a corn hole competition.