Changing Katty’s world… Everyone said yes
It happens fairly often to almost everybody—a situation where everything has to work perfectly in order for things to turn out right. But that situation is usually something like delivering two people to basketball practice and one to a dentist’s appointment in the space of half an hour; or juggling three grocery bags, a gallon of milk, and an armload of dry-cleaning between the garage and the back door; or getting the turkey out of the oven, carved, and on the table reasonably close to the time you announced dinner would be served.
Same principle, different stakes: a little girl’s life depended on her traveling from the Dominican Republic to Grand Rapids (with the necessary accessories of airline tickets, passport, visa, and escort), being seen by a cardiologist and then a surgeon, and getting a date for surgery—all within a few days of leaving her home.
It was clear from the beginning that Katty Minaya Ventura, age three, was quite sick. Her heart defect, tetralogy of fallot, had made her very weak and short of breath. Our liaison at Corazones Unidos, Vanessa Sanchez, called HTC Director Helen Salan and emphasized that Katty needed medical attention soon. That was on a Monday. Three HTC children were going home to the Dominican Republic on Thursday, and their escorts were returning to Michigan with another child. That arrangement seemed perfect for Katty—with only the complications of procuring airline tickets, a passport, and a visa in three days to make things interesting.
Vanessa told Helen it would be much better for Katty if we could find a bilingual escort who would be able to talk to her and relieve her anxiety. Pat Williams, fluent in Spanish, offered her services. Yes.
Then, on Thursday, the weather reared its ugly head to require more logistical miracles. HTC children cannot fly without escorts. The two escorts taking the three children back to the Dominican Republic had turned into one for part of the journey. Bad weather in Florida prevented pilot escort Randy Hunt from getting from Florida to join the group in Grand Rapids, so he waited in Miami. Then the flight for Pat and the kids was delayed in Chicago because of weather. The little group finally scrambled onto the very last flight that would get them to Santo Domingo late on Thursday night, just in time for the escorts to have a short overnight, pick up Katty early Friday morning, and bring her to the U.S. Again there was a Yes.
HTC children also cannot come here unless a host family is waiting to take them in. Area coordinator Diane Decker needed to find an experienced, committed family who could handle such a difficult case. She thought of Ron and Sue Elenbaas and their children Amber and Scott. Would they do it? Yes.
Katty arrived in Grand Rapids Friday evening and was welcomed by the Elenbaas family. They saw at once that she was not in good shape—blue lips, fingers, and toes and severe clubbing of her fingers and toes (swelling at their tips due to poor circulation) told the sad story.
Dr. Florentine explained to Sue that Katty was hanging on by a thread. He had never seen a child with a hematocrit level of 81.7 (normal is in the 40s). Katty’s body had been making extra red blood cells to
next morning, Sue carried Katty downstairs for surgery. Dr. Greg Zandstra,
the anesthesiologist, said that he had tossed and turned the night before, thinking
about Katty and how he would handle her case; the highest hematocrit level he’d
encountered before meeting Katty was 67. Then he gently took Katty from Sue’s
arms and carried her into the operating room.