Text size:

Cardiac Surgery by Renowned Heart Surgeon at Memorial Saves a Young Boy's Life


April 2004 - When Guerlyn was 5, he was just like the rest of his friends in Haiti who made the long walk to school every day. But five months after he started kindergarten, he was too weak to go to school, play or run, and even walking a few steps left him struggling for his next breath.

Guerlyn was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot, a hole between the lower chambers of the heart and an obstruction that constricts the flow of oxygenated blood from the lungs, which causes fatigue and cyanosis (blueness from lack of oxygen). But even with a diagnosis, there was no medical care for Guerlyn in Haiti. Since most children with this defect do not reach the age of 7 without surgery - and Guerlyn was already 6 - time was running out.

A Life-Saving Connection

In the summer of 2003, Steve Aguis, Vice President of the Rotary Gift of Life Program in Florida, contacted Beverly David, PhD, RN, on the medical staff at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital.

"I am the conduit between the Congenital Cardiac Surgery Program at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital and the Rotarians, who partially funded the surgery," says Dr. David.

The next step was to locate a Creole-speaking host family for Guerlyn. When Phares Duverne, a Haitian businessman and father of three, overheard the story of a young Haitian boy who needed somebody to provide a home while he recovered from surgery, Phares immediately stepped up, saying, "I'm somebody."

Phares and his wife, Josette, received no financial help during Guerlyn's stay in their North Miami home. "With Guerlyn, it was time for us to share what we have in our hearts without waiting for anything back," says Phares. "God will take care of that."

A Leader in Specialized Cardiac Surgery

Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital is the only hospital in Broward and Palm Beach Counties performing open heart surgery and cardiac catheterization, assisting children of all ages from as far away as the Northeast, the Caribbean and South America.

Richard A. Perryman, MD, Director of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, performed the life-saving surgery on November 23, 2003. "Guerlyn showed improvement immediately," says Dr. Perryman, who is regularly listed in "America's Top Doctors" and has been performing pediatric cardiac surgery for more than 23 years.

In addition to receiving highly specialized surgical care, Guerlyn was able to recuperate in a warm and loving environment - thanks to the caring and attentive nursing staff, who fell in love with Guerlyn. "Everyone at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital was outstanding," says Phares Duverne.

"Now I can play! Now I can run!"

Just days after his surgery, the Duvernes treated Guerlyn to his first real birthday party. Guerlyn loves to share the photographs of this special day filled with cake, balloons, laughter and wishes for a bright future. Now Guerlyn plays and runs and keeps up with no problem.

Because Guerlyn was here on a medical Visa, he was required to return to Haiti. Saying goodbye was extremely difficult, but, says Dr. Perryman, "Guerlyn is the kind of kid who could make a difference in his country. Now he has the chance."

To learn more about the Congenital Cardiac Surgery Program at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, call
(954) 265-6939.