Chapel Hill, N.C. — The future looks bright for an 8-year-old girl from Afghanistan. A Charlotte-based charity brought her to the state for surgery to correct a life-threatening heart defect.
Maryam is eating her first bites of food since her heart surgery last Tuesday. Ashley Lewis, her host mom, has been with the Afghan girl since she arrived in the state on June 21.
“She’s my baby for the summer,” Lewis said. “She is one of the six Afghan children that the charity, Solace for the Children, brought for medical treatments. Twelve-year-old Narges received dental care and now she helps interpret for Maryam.”
Army doctors in Afghanistan identified Maryam's heart defect and referred her to the Charlotte charity. They brought her to North Carolina Children's Hospital for more tests and ultimately to correct her defect, a small vessel connecting the two main arteries coming in and going out of the heart.
“Her defect results in over circulation of her lungs and dilation of the heart,” said Dr. Elman Frantz, a UNC pediatric cardiologist. “And left untreated, her defect could lead to heart failure and death. A catheter procedure confirmed the problem but also revealed a narrowing of her aorta, which feeds blood from the heart to the body. Both problems required heart surgery, addressed through a small incision in her side.”
UNC cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Michael Mill performed the operation and said Maryam is recovering well.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to get her out of the hospital within the next day or two,” Mill said.
Lewis said Maryam is more than ready to leave and eager to play with other children who came with her from Afghanistan.
“Our interpreter explained to her (that) now she’ll be a healthy girl,” Lewis said. “She can live her life and not worry about her heart problem.”
Maryam and the other Afghan children will return to their home country on Aug. 2.