November 19th, 2008

From the Heart…

I’ve met some AMAZING people over the past week. I’ve been traveling in Europe with a photographer visiting some of the charitable programs and partners we support. I take such trips from time to time as a way of chronicling this work, and then sharing it with employees and others. So far, we’ve visited about a dozen programs in five countries, with each visit more fascinating than the next.

Yesterday, for instance, we met with Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque Enfants du Monde, a Paris-based group whose sole mission is to help disadvantaged children suffering from serious heart issues by financing their operation at Necker Hospital in Paris and coordinating their stay in France with a “host” family. Roughly one child in 100 suffers from heart issues where only surgery can save them. In many instances, these children don’t get the necessary surgery because it’s too expensive for their families.  

Each year, Mécénat brings about 100 children (some as young as a year old!) from 42 countries to Paris for open-heart surgery. The children travel to France without their parents, and are “hosted” for 6-8 weeks by volunteer families who care for them and pay their everyday expenses (there are 240 such families throughout France!). All other expenses for air travel and the surgery itself are covered through various sponsors, including Johnson & Johnson, which has supported Mécénat for more than a decade. Over the past 12 years, more than 1,300 children’s lives have been saved.  

During our visit, Dr. Francine Leca, a highly charming, charismatic cardiac surgeon who performs many of the operations, met with two Parisian host families and two angelic little girls – one from Cameroon, the other from Laos. The 12-month-old Cameroonian girl had surgery a few weeks ago, is recovering well, and will be going home soon. The four-year-old Laotian girl had arrived in Paris JUST two days ago. She has a hole in her heart that is preventing healthy oxygen flow, and will receive surgery soon. I spent time watching the interactions of the Laotian girl with her new temporary parents … it was one of the most AMAZING acts of love I’ve seen. Take a look…

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Literally, the host couple had only met this girl at the airport two days prior, but their outpouring of love for her was incredibly palpable and emotional. This couple has hosted several children over the past few years, and both are pros for sure. The girl was a bit stunned by it all, not truly understanding why these new people were showing so much affection for her, and wondering where her mommy and daddy were. As the visit went along, though, she took to her surrogates in a way a child connects with her biological parents. By all measures, a poignant and inspiring moment.

On so many levels, this program represents acts of breathtaking kindness and love from which we can all benefit.

Learn more at http://www.mecenat-cardiaque.org/about_us_eng.php.
 

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2 Responses to “From the Heart…”

  1. Bill Price says

    Great post, Shaun. It’s always good to the result of our good works.

    I was left wondering a bit … why do the kids have to go alone? Is it cost? Is it a general organizational philosophy or approach by the organization? The hosts look awesome, but I was just curious.

  2. Shaun Mickus says

    Bill:
    Cost is the primary reason why family members don’t travel with their child to France. The cost for each case — including the surgery, travel, and living expenses for each child — is upwards of 20,000 Euros. Adding travel and living expenses for a relative is cost prohibitive for the organization and the parents.
    Shaun

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