A heart transplant survivor beats the odds and finds a ‘second home’ at the Ronald McDonald House-Oak Street
Valeria Vasquez was a happy and healthy six-year-old, but life changed in an instant when her family learned a viral infection had attacked her heart. Doctors in her native country, Peru, told her parents—Jessica and Diego—that she would not live much longer without a heart transplant. “She was healthy and suddenly they told us she needed a heart transplant,” Jessica said. “It was unbelievable.”
A heart transplant has never been performed on a child in Peru, and there is no donor program in place. In addition, the procedure would cost over $1 million. “We needed a miracle,” Diego said.
Within days of Valeria’s diagnosis, the Peruvian government agreed to pay for the procedure, wherever it could be done. Valeria’s parents are both physicians in Peru and through their own research, discovered the place they needed to go to save their daughter’s life. Within a day, the family arrived at the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis and Valeria was hooked up to a Berlin Heart, an artificial heart used to bridge the time to heart transplant. “She was near death when she got to us,” said Dr. Rebecca Ameduri, medical director of Pediatric Heart Transplants.
Valeria received a new heart. Although she needed monitoring by her medical team for a year, she began doing wonderfully. Her family found a sense of home, far from their own, at the Ronald McDonald House. If you watched Valeria play on the jungle gym and do crafts in the family room, you would never believe what this little girl has endured.
The Ronald McDonald House meant everything to the Vazquez family, allowing them to keep their family together and strong, with easy access to Valeria’s essential medical care. “They have everything here—a gym, a movie theater, playgrounds and meals!” Jessica said. Valeria is even attending the accredited onsite school, where she is in first grade.
Without this organization, Valeria’s treatment plan would have looked vastly different. The financial implications of renting a temporary home and the emotional toll of being far from loved ones would have added additional stress during an already trying time. This is why we are so proud to do what we do and offer our services to families when they need it most.