A young girl receives life-saving heart surgery—and the joy of salvation in Jesus Christ—through the Children’s Heart Project
Sylvia Chacolla can’t stop dancing. As she twirls around in her red, yellow, and green dress, she doesn’t miss a beat because her heart can finally keep up with the music.
Instead of dropping out of practice early and going home to rest, Sylvia can dance with her friends for hours and not get tired—all thanks to the Children’s Heart Project of Samaritan’s Purse.
Sylvia was born with a heart defect and grew up getting respiratory infections constantly. When her mother Miriam took her to the doctor in El Alto, Bolivia, he told her that she was just being a bad mother, and that was the reason why Sylvia was sick all of the time.
Miriam refused to believe this and didn’t go back to that doctor. “I knew he was not a good doctor, and that something was wrong with her,” Miriam said.
At 8 years old, Sylvia started having other problems. At school, she couldn’t run for longer than 7 minutes, and she always had to leave dance practice early.
“I knew I was different because practice was hard and I always had to stop,” Sylvia remembered. “I couldn’t play sports or participate in soccer or gym class.”
One day Sylvia ended up in the hospital with another severe respiratory infection. While she was there, they did some tests and discovered a heart murmur. The doctors then sent Sylvia and her mom to Cardio Centrum where Samaritan’s Purse had Children’s Heart Project cardiologists present.
After diagnosing Sylvia in September 2010, they put her on a waiting list for life-saving heart surgery since her condition was worsening and her family could not afford the medical care on their own.
In December she was selected for surgery in Indianapolis, Ind.
“I was in shock when I heard I was selected,” Sylvia said. “I couldn’t believe it because they told me it would be a year before I could get surgery.”
Two months later, Sylvia and Miriam flew to Indiana to stay with their host family for eight weeks. While they were in the United States, both of them went to church on Sunday and had daily Bible studies with their host family. Growing up, neither of them had ever read a Bible or experienced a personal relationship with Jesus, so that was all very new for them.
“I was very sad and homesick at first, but I knew I was in good hands with Samaritan’s Purse,” Miriam said.
Sylvia’s surgery was successful, and in the days following, both of them made decisions to trust in Christ as their Savior.
Miriam had been sitting in the sanctuary at her host family’s church, staring at the stained glass windows of Jesus.
“I looked up at Christ on the cross and I realized He was the only one who performs miracles and who saves us,” she said. “I knew there was no other who could have saved my daughter.”
Now that Sylvia has fully recovered from surgery, she has not only joined the National Folklore Dance Team for Bolivia, but has also competed in Ecuador against other South American countries.
“I was always worried before. I always had insecurity, and I didn’t have the deep peace that everything was going to be okay,” she said. “Now I can go to school and practice with my dance team. I can compete for 3 hours, and I don’t have to go to bed for hours afterwards. I can play with friends and keep up with them.”
Seven months after surgery, Sylvia is not only dancing fervently on stage, but also in her heart since she has the joy of salvation in Jesus.
“I have a peace now that I never had before because I know I’m a child of God,” Sylvia said. “He is like an umbrella over me. Jesus has come into my life, and He is always there with me.”
“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever.” (Psalm 30:11-12, NIV)