It is a fairly chilly morning when the Care For A Child’s Heart (CFACH) team arrive at Kelvin Irungu’s home in the transit town of Mlolongo, Machakos County. Kelvin Irungu and his two brothers; Reagan and Maxwell are cuddled together in one seat watching cartoons. It had rained the previous night and so their mother would not allow them to play in the mud outside.
Kelvin’s journey to the theatre for a heart surgery to correct Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) began in 2010 when he was one-year-old. TOF is a combination of four related heart defects that occur together and need complex open heart surgery to correct. He had just begun to learn to walk when his mother noticed he got so tired after only a few strides. With his increased physical activity, also came shortness of breath.
The first impression was that little Kelvin suffered from pneumonia but this was ruled out when he did not respond to treatment. His parents sought alternative opinion and this led to a TOF diagnosis. His doctor advised that he urgently needed surgery.
At that time, Kelvin’s mother, Elizabeth, now a small scale trader was working as a casual laborer in a nearby factory. John, his father, is a metalsmith. With their combined income only able to cater for their daily living expenses, the cost of a heart surgery was beyond reach. Fortunately, Kelvin’s grandmother heard of CFACH that in turn presented Kelvin’s case to Heart Gift International who sponsored his surgery at the Dell Medical Centre in Austin, Texas.
‘It was a long journey, but I was willing to do anything for my son. It was my first time travelling out of the country, leave alone by air. Thankfully, we arrived in Austin to the warm reception of the Ross family- we are forever grateful to them! On 6th November, 2013, Kelvin’s surgery took the longest eight hours of my life. He was in the ICU for 2 days and spent another 5 days in the wards. His doctors monitored him for a week post discharge from hospital before we could travel back home. From then on, he has never had any health challenges. He is leading a healthy, normal life.’ Kelvin’s mum.
Kelvin, now 11 years old, is in grade 5. He is an above average performer in class and enjoys playing football. His eyes are set for the cockpit when he is of age and his little brother, 4-year-old Maxwell tells us he will be Kelvin’s first passenger!