Marleny Oyela-Herrera has hole in heart fixed

January 24, 2012

Marleny Oyela-Herrera doesn't speak English. But the tears that fell when she thought of dying and losing her children needed no translation.

The 36-year-old Honduran woman was diagnosed with a condition rarely found in adults: She had a 24 millimeter hole in her heart.

"Over time, if left untreated, it gets bigger until it fails," says Dr. Cynthia Tracy, a George Washington Hospital cardiologist.

In Honduras, due to poverty and lack of resources, doctors couldn’t fix the hole. She would have died in a handful of years.

With three children ages 10, 3, and 1, Herrera and her husband started emailing doctors across the globe. They found Tracy at George Washington, who travels with a team of doctors to Honduras once a year doing procedures considered common here in the U.S.

They met Herrera, but fixing the hole would have to be done in the states. Herrara boarded a plane with help from both embassies, the hospital and a host of other agencies.

Monday night, in just under four hours, doctors at George Washington using a special device, plugged the hole in heart.

Her children are extremely grateful.

"They […] said thank you to angels in the United States for fixing her heart," said a translator.