Denver hospital repairs heart of Ugandan child

Posted May 11, 2011 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Charity ~ 5,543 views


By Colleen O’Connor | Denver Post | After spending three weeks in Denver, 20-month-old Deborah Kisakye is returning to her home in Uganda with the gift of new life.

“It’s a miracle,” her mother, Mariam Luyima, said through a translator.

The youngest of four children, Deborah was born prematurely with a hole in her heart.

A doctor in the capital, Kampala, said she could get heart surgery in India. But Luyima and her husband didn’t have enough money for that.

Deborah’s grandfather, a pastor in Uganda, finally connected with a medical mission group from Dallas that was performing craniofacial surgery in Uganda. Through that group, he was able to contact Denver cardiologist Steven Leonard.

Leonard, who works at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, told hospital administrators about Deborah, and surgery, anesthesia and hospital care were provided for free.

The child had heart surgery April 19.

“The whole thing made everyone here feel so good,” said Leo n ard, who frequently goes on medical mission trips to Honduras. “It made a real difference in a child who ordinarily would not have been able to have this kind of care.”

The Ronald McDonald House provided housing, and DC Kiyemba translated for Luyima.

Born in Uganda, Kiyemba has lived in Colorado 30 years and works in audit services at Xcel Energy, which gives employees paid time off to volunteer in the community.

Kiyemba picked mother and child up from the airport, spent the entire day at the hospital during the surgery and worked to connect Luyima with members of the local African community, who made sure she received home-cooked meals and made it to church services.

“We wanted to support her,” said Erin Motzer, a social worker at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center. “It’s so hard to come halfway around the world without knowing what the outcome of surgery for your daughter is going to be.”

The return trip, however, promises a happy ending.

“The trip back is about 18 hours, and when you get there you’re exhausted,” said Kiyemba. “But this time, when they get there everyone will be waiting at the airport for them. It’s like waiting for the bride.”

UPDATE IN PHOTOS: Little Deborah Recovering From Heart Surgery

Deborah and mom Mariam wait for her appointment with the heart doctors. After a grandfather in Uganda began to search for help for his granddaughter who was born with a hole in her heart, the heart doctors at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children and Presbyterian/St. Luke’s stepped up to the challenge and have given 21-month-old Deborah Kisakye a second chance at life. Her home country of Uganda did not have the capability to help her, and the doctors say she could have only lived about two more years without surgery. Deborah had her surgery on April 19, and plans to head back to Uganda with her mother Mariam Luyima in the next few weeks.

Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgeon Steven Leonard who performed Deborah’s surgery says, “I wish I could see her in about a year. She will look like any normal child, running and playing. Maybe I will have to plan a trip to Uganda.”

About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.


    Sara S

    Fantastic story! God works in mysterious ways.As for our own DC,that is Mwami Kiyemba through and through.Good wishes to Kisaakye and her Family.


    I believe miracles really do happen.

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