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Nonprofit grants 150th 'HeartGift' to third-world child

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TWC News: Nonprofit grants 150th 'HeartGift' to third-world child
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Each picture on the wall represents a beat, a rhythm which reaches around the world.

Today, 150 kids are alive and well because of HeartGift, a local nonprofit that performs heart surgery to repair congenital heart defects on kids from third-world countries.

"It's pretty cool to look back at the list and the names and some of the pictures you see around here today. It's pretty wild,” Surgeon Dr. Ken Fox said.

Six-year-old Nicaraguan, Vivian, is patient number 150. She couldn't get her heart problem fixed at home, but Surgeon Fox says for him, it's just another day on the job.

"Most of them have problems where they would not live a normal life. In fact, many would die, and I can deal with it," Fox said. “We live in the best country in the world and the fact that I have this opportunity to share this with others is a tremendous gift.”

The availability of care has some Austin doctors spreading the gospel of HeartGift. Doctors performed 100 surgeries in the last eight years and 50 in the last two. The foundation has already grown into five cities including Austin, San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans and Fort Worth. They’re also looking to add chapters in Dallas and Tulsa.

HeartGift has donated $17 million in medical services, and while they think doctors are just helping make children healthy again, the program is actually creating ambassadors.

"The mother and the child go back and say those Americans aren’t like you think you are. You know they are wonderful. They took care of me. They saved my life. They do that around the world in these 23 countries that we served. I think we are doing a great ambassadorship,” Founder John “Chip” Oswalt said.

The program is about treating people like they're special.

"Regardless of where you are from, whether you are from a small town in Nicaragua or the big city of Dallas we are all the same inside," Fox said.

The program is 150 beats in and still going strong. If you would like to learn more about heart gift visit www.HeartGift.org.

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