CHILD of the month – December 2009

of the month

By Rich Petersen

Nicolás Castro Pacheco


 child-dec09This is four-month-old Nicolás Castro Pacheco, in the arms of his mother Maricela. His parents are different from many of the Niños families we help in that they are both university educated and have better-than-average jobs. Why would such a family come to Niños Incapacitados for help with medical expenses? 

The answer is that Nicolás was born with a congenital heart defect which requires open-heart surgery. Known as Atrioventricular Septal Defect (or AV canal defect), this anomaly results in a large hole in the middle the heart instead of the two atria formed into two separate chambers, and what should be the separation of the two valves. The end result is a large amount of extra blood going to the baby’s lungs, plus extra strain on the heart. That causes high pulmonary pressure because the heart has to work extra hard. Here is the “catch-22” aspect of Nicolás’ situation. The family has IMSS (the Mexican national health insurance), but there is no space available at the hospitals in Guadalajara for him to have surgery. The same is true at the Hospital Civil, the Guadalajara “charity” hospital which does not charge anything near private hospital fees. Nicolás is number 86 on the list at the Civil, with no chance yet of being bumped up to a higher position.

He has been seen by a private cardiologist who says the surgery cannot wait months until there “might” be a space available. The problem then is the cost. One private hospital in the city will charge only 170,000 pesos for the surgery, not including the physician’s fee. This is much less than other hospitals in Guadalajara. The doctor has lowered his fee to 50,000 pesos, for a total of 220,000 pesos. The family has 80,000 pesos from relatives and friends, and the doctor will not insist on immediate payment of his fee. Hospitals in Mexico have no payment plans for cases such as these, and the family came to Niños Incapacitados for what help we could offer. 

Obviously our group is unable to come up with such an amount, so we are therefore bringing Nicolás’ case to the public in hopes someone might have a solution to this dilemma.

In the course of writing this article, Flavio called me to say that little Nicolás had developed a respiratory infection which was putting even more strain on his heart and lungs. He was seen at the hospital and treated for two days with antibiotics, and did improve. The parents then decided they had no choice but to proceed with the surgery, knowing full well that the hospital fees would be due in the near future. As I am writing this in mid-November for the December issue of El Ojo, Nicolás is one day post-op and so far doing well. I hope by the time you read this that he is back home and on the road to recovery. But in the meantime that hospital bill has to be paid, and we would so much appreciate any help or suggestions you might have.

Niños Incapacitados meets the second Thursday of each month at 10:30 a.m. in the patio area of La Nueva Posada. Please join us to learn more about what we do and how you can help. Each month we bring one of the children to our meeting so that our members and other friends can get to know personally some of those who benefit from the organization.

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