Matters of the heart are no simple matter. In fact, God’s Word has all kinds of wisdom about our hearts. Our hearts store our hopes, our desires, our emotions–and power the rest of our body with blood. The Bible says that out of our hearts flow the wellspring of life. Ultimately, our actions and the way we live our life reflect what is in our hearts. If we have the Holy Spirit in our heart, our heart becomes a giving heart that demonstrates the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Sometimes, the invisible matters of the heart also intersect with a literal heart.
We’ve all been in situations or known loved ones in dire health situations. The pacing around the waiting room, monitoring someone’s condition over Skype calls and check-in texts. It can be incredibly difficult not knowing the outcomes of surgery or doing physical therapy after–let alone paying for the medical bills.
For eight-year-old Austomi, who lives in the busy city of Dhaka in Bangladesh, she didn’t even know her heart was sick.
“I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” -Ezekiel 36:16
Matters of the Heart: Austomi’s Story
When children in our communities are faced with emergency medical needs such as expensive surgeries, vulnerable families are often placed in desperate situations. Medical bills are expensive. They add up. In communities where generational poverty has crippled many, families can’t afford to pay for the needed care. Instead, children go without the medical aid they need, which can be life-threatening.
Eight-year-old Austomi Das is a sponsored child in Bangladesh. Though she was born with a serious congenital heart, no one in her family knew, until FH staff caught it.
Austomi is a sponsored child who is the third of five children in her family. She’s always been small, but one day when she walked into the Food for the Hungry office, our staff noticed that she was small, yes, but even smaller than her younger siblings. Something was wrong. As they looked closer, they noticed that her fingers and toes were swollen. Her little belly was distended, and there was a blue tinge to her gums and lips. They talked among themselves, and wondered, “Are Austomi’s symptoms a result of years of malnourishment, or is it a sign of something more serious?”
Within days, they referred Austomi to the local heart hospital and discovered that she was born with a serious congenital heart malformation. Due to this heart defect, there was very poor oxygenation of her blood, which affected her growth and endurance.
In order to treat Austomi’s condition, the doctors advised that Austomi would need open-heart surgery, and she would need it now. Otherwise, she may not survive.
The cost? Close to $2700 for the surgery, medical treatment, and post-operative care.
The HEART Fund Steps In
FH staff caught Austomi’s heart condition right in the nick of time. However, the cost of the surgery, close to $2700 in U.S. dollars, was an incredible amount to fathom for Austomi’s family. Luckily, they didn’t have to add this burden to their own family’s finances.
Food for the Hungry’s HEART Fund is all about preventative care and providing emergency health funding when it’s desperately needed. Because of the giving hearts of our generous donors, there is funding available in emergencies. Ultimately, the HEART Fund and FH Bangladesh were together able to fully cover Austomi’s heart surgery. Praise God!
Austomi’s surgery led to her miraculous recovery: her fingers and toes were no longer clubbed. She lost that blue tinge in her skin and got a healthy glow to her complexion. After the surgery, Austomi is now physically healthy and her body is retaining nutrients as she’s catching up on growth. Because of her recovery, other caregivers in Austomi’s program in Bangladesh have also started to watch for other children who may have serious health conditions. In fact, one of the first challenges of the heart operation was addressing the concerns of Austomi’s parents. At first, the risks of surgery and the high cost scared them. Over time, God led them to accept the cardiologists’ recommendations and FH’s support to put Austomi on a new path.
Left: Austomi poses for a portrait before her open-heart surgery. Right: Austomi just 10 days after her surgery, already starting to gain weight and color.
Living With a Giving Heart
FH Bangladesh and our staff around the world know that the follow up of every child is vital. In this case, the timely intervention by FH Bangladesh staff saved Austomi’s life. Her parents, family, and community are now all witnesses of her transformation. Austomi told staff the following after her surgery: “I am very healthy; I can hardly believe I am the one. I am physically strong enough that I can attend my school activities regularly.” Her mother, Milon, also shared her deepest thankfulness for the surgery.
“My daughter’s life has been changed. She had no hope for the future before, but now she has found hope. I cannot find a way of expressing how grateful I am, but I pray that all those who made it possible may be rewarded by God.” -Austomi’s mother
Today, children like Austomi are thriving because of life-saving surgeries provided by the HEART Fund. If you’ve ever experienced a medical emergency personally or through a loved one, you know the impact this can make. Sometimes, that is a life or death surgery. If God is leading you to practice having a giving heart this season, consider helping children like Austomi and many others get the care they need. You can make a donation of as little as $10 to the HEART Fund, today.
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