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Texas doctor goes to Bolivia to help children get life-saving heart surgeries

The medical mission trip provided 25 open-heart surgeries to families free of charge. Staff from Texas Children's Hospital made the trip.

HOUSTON — A team of Texas Children’s Hospital staff members is saving lives around the world.

This summer, the team went to Bolivia to perform open-heart surgeries for children in need.

One intensivist joined the medical mission trip and is grateful to give back.

The 10-day trip from Houston to Bolivia is changing the lives of children ages three months to 13 years old.

“I think it’s definitely a sense of pride,” Dr. Basheer Ahmed said.

He's an intensivist at Texas Children’s Hospital and it was his fifth year going on the trip.

“A lot of these kids may not survive another year if we’re not able to provide some of the interventions there, and if we don’t do some of these interventions, they face long-term chronic illnesses,” Ahmed said.

Ahmed is part of a team made up of 30 people from all around the country.

Thirteen people from Texas Children’s helped perform 25 life-saving open-heart surgeries for families in need.

“The patients we end up choosing are families who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford procedures,” Ahmed said.

The nonprofit HeartGift assembled the team and fully funded the medical mission trip to Bolivia for the 15th year.

Congenital heart disease is a big problem in countries like Bolivia. HeartGift said the country’s unique geography advances its tremendous healthcare challenges, causing children to be 10 times more likely to be born with congenital heart defects.

The nonprofit said the conditions are hard to treat without trained cardiologists and updated facilities, which are limited in the country.

Ahmed remembered the interaction with a mom whose son had a procedure done free of charge.

“He was 16 months of age and for (his mother) to see that and say ‘it’s so amazing after this procedure he has enough energy to finally walk,’ with his heart disease he didn’t have the energy,” Ahmed said.

Ahmed said it’s a rewarding trip that he looks forward to doing each year.

“I think that when we start on our medical career, That’s one of the things that we focus on is the ability to give back and that’s it's highly rewarding to give back in an underserved area,” Ahmed said.

One in 100 babies is born with a congenital heart defect globally each year. Around the world, HeartGift said congenital heart defects are the leading cause of birth defects and the second leading cause of death in the first year of life after infectious diseases.

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