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. 

Would the authorities in the Dominican Republic issue her a passport and visa that quickly? Vanessa worked very fast and very hard to get an answer to this question.   Yes.
Would American Airlines’ Miles for Kids program quickly
approve a ticket for her?  Such tickets usually take three
weeks to procure.  Helen pleaded with the program and
was able to get approval for Katty’s tickets.  Then the
problem was scheduling a flight for Friday.  This was March, when the airways are full of people flying about on vacations and spring breaks.  It seemed that the only flights that could be found for Katty would have her traveling for more than 14 hours, and her condition made that impossible.  Rescue came from Margaret Whitehead, who arranges our escorts.   She called on a contact at the airline in Dallas, who was able to find four seats on a flight that would leave Santo Domingo at 8:00 AM and arrive in Grand Rapids by dinnertime.  Airplane seats?  Yes.

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

Katty had already been put on the cancellation list for an appointment at Western Michigan Pediatric Cardiology in Grand Rapids, so they took her home for the weekend and got to know her.  She was so delightful, but so weak.  “It was terribly sad to see how she would pant after the slightest activity,” Sue says.   “It was a chore for her to lift a few Cheerios to her mouth and chew them; she would rest between bites.  She came with two baby bottles, and I noticed that someone had poked huge holes in the nipples.  After observing Katty I realized that this was because she didn’t have the strength to suck through a normal nipple.   But even though she was so sick, she was an angel.  She has a wonderful temperament and was always happy.  She slept at night, played with toys during the day, and never complained.”
On Tuesday morning at 9:00 the cardiology office called.  A 9:45 appointment with Dr. Michael Florentine had opened up; could Katty take it?  Standing in her Zeeland kitchen (1/2 hour away) in her pajamas with Katty asleep upstairs, Sue said yes.  Yes.
Everyone knew Katty was sick.  But when Dr. Florentine listened to her heart, his expression and his colorful exclamation signaled a change in the situation.  It had been serious; now it was urgent.  After doing an echocardiogram, Dr. Florentine sent a nurse to find Dr. Rodolfo Neirotti, the hospital’s pediatric cardiac surgeon. Miraculously, he was on the premises and available.  Yes.
     Ten minutes later, the two doctors were examining Katty and her echocardiogram, and soon after that she was admitted directly to the pediatric ICU There had been a cancellation in Dr. Neirotti’s schedule, too, and Katty was scheduled for surgery the next morning at DeVos Children’s Hospital.  Yes.

   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

It would have been so easy for someone to say no.  But everyone said yes, and they saved Katty’s life.  Just one little word, powerful enough to heal the world, one child at a time.   
So Katty had her heart surgery.
Dr. Florentine later told the
Elenbaases that he thought
she wouldn’t have survived for
two more days without it.  But
with it . . . oh, my.  It was the
miracle she and everyone else
who had begged and pleaded
and worked hard and put things on hold and risen to the occasion deserved.  She became a brand-new girl, a healthy girl, a girl who could walk, run, breathe, and eat Cheerios with ease.  Katty has a beautiful new life, and in June she returned to her family to begin living it.

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try to get more oxygen, and her blood had become rather like sludge—so thick that it could barely be drawn.  Katty had an exchange transfusion right after she was admitted, in order to thin her blood.

The 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.