After trying different natural remedies, a father trusts God to heal his son’s heart defect through Children’s Heart Project
Only three months after Emibal’s birth, Reynaldo Laura and Adela Ampuero noticed that something was wrong with their son. When he nursed, he would begin coughing. His lips would turn blue, he would get extremely tired, and he couldn’t sit up.
Reynaldo and Adela took him to the hospital in their hometown of La Paz, Bolivia. The doctor said he could hear a murmur in Emibal’s heart, but he said they would need to do more studies to find anything conclusive.
As Emibal continued to get worse, his parents took him to another doctor when he was 6 months old. That doctor said Emibal had two holes in his heart, but one of them would probably close on its own. To fix the other one, Emibal would need surgery.
Reynaldo and Adela took him to a screening where Children’s Heart Project was examining boys and girls who were candidates for operations.
Children’s Heart Project is the Samaritan’s Purse ministry that arranges life-saving operations for children who live in countries where the required medical expertise and equipment are not available.
The screening confirmed that Emibal needed surgery, but Reynaldo wasn’t convinced. He began looking for natural remedies, and his friends began telling him odd solutions. One suggested that the blood of a bat could help; another said Emibal should drink dew from the town of Potosi each morning.
“We were desperate, but it was really hard to believe that a heart surgery was the only answer,” Reynaldo said.
In the meantime, Children’s Heart Project had put Emibal on a waiting list and found a hospital in Texas to accept his case. But when the couple heard the news, they weren’t overjoyed. They said they would have to think about it.
“Exactly one month after I started to ask God about Emibal’s heart condition, [Samaritan’s Purse] called me,” Adela said. “To me, I was so excited and happy because of the answer, but for my husband, it was something really sad. For him, God was not answering because he was trying to do everything first.”
Reynaldo’s friends told him that they thought Children’s Heart Project was suspicious, and he should continue looking for remedies that wouldn’t involve shipping his son to another country to have open heart surgery. But nothing worked until Reynaldo began praying.
“We fell on our knees, and we started praying every night to God,” he said. “Through prayer, we realized that God was in control, and we decided to put everything in His hands. Once we started to trust in God and have a relationship with Him, that was when we started to trust in your work.”
Reynaldo and Adela called Children’s Heart Project to say that they had decided to accept the surgery. They began filling out paperwork to travel to the United States.
While Emibal prepared to travel to the U.S., David and Martha Brown were searching for someone to fill an empty spot in their Texas home. They had built the house in order to host missionaries and friends in need of temporary housing. For some time, their home had been empty, and Martha had been praying for God to fill the spot.
Martha’s friend from church had previously hosted four Children’s Heart Project children, and when she found out that Emibal was coming she immediately sent out a request to her church friends.
“I saw the request from Lori, so we decided to pray about it for about 24 hours,” Martha said.
The Browns decided to accept the challenge, so they got in touch with Children’s Heart Project. They began making preparations for the little boy to receive life-saving heart surgery and stay at their house while he recovered.
Full Faith in God
Adela and Emibal traveled with an interpreter to Texas. When they arrived, they quickly became acquainted with the Browns and rushed off to doctor’s appointments.
During the pre-surgery appointment, Adela began to fear that her son wouldn’t return home with her. Tears streamed down her face as she listened to the surgeon tell her that if Emibal survived, he could need as many as three more operations to fix his condition. He also said that Emibal might no longer be able to live at a high altitude, which would mean the family would need to move from their home at 14,000 feet in La Paz.
“The diagnosis that she heard in Bolivia was much, much less severe than the diagnosis she heard while she was here,” Martha said. “The day that we went for the pre-op appointment with the surgeon, he told us it was the most high-risk case the whole year. She cried and she just looked at him and said, ‘I trust the Lord, and I trust in you.’”
Waiting for Good News
While Adela knitted and prayed in the waiting room at the hospital, Reynaldo sat at home alone in Bolivia. He began to think about how miserable and alone he felt when his parents died, and he became overwhelmed.
“I felt that misery again,” he said. “In that moment, I fell on my knees, and I prayed to God. Very fast I could feel that He was hugging me and loving me, and He talked to my heart telling me that I was not alone and I’ve never been alone.”
For Adela, the surgery passed quickly. Although the surgeon told her it could take up to seven hours, she said she felt like only minutes had passed when he came out to tell her that Emibal had survived. Not only that, but no further operations would be needed. A Children’s Heart Project staff member called Reynaldo to tell him the good news, and the family rejoiced.
Although Emibal’s heart defect had been totally fixed, he still had a long road to recovery. He stayed in the hospital for a week while Adela slept by his bedside.
“It was challenging to watch him be so sick and not feel well,” Martha said. “At the same time, because I’m a nurse, I knew there would be a good outcome. It was difficult during those few days where he was really not feeling well, but overall, it was very encouraging how the Lord just worked everything out.”
Emibal was a different child when he was able to return to the Brown’s house. He was no longer tired and quiet. He was moving, and he seemed to have an opinion on everything. He loved walking outside.
A Close Relationship with God
It took him a little more than a month to heal enough to return home. Adela was patient, but she was ready to see Reynaldo, her daughter, and the brother-in-law she raised.
During the second week of June, mother, son, and the interpreter boarded the plane to Bolivia. About 18 hours after starting her journey, Adela walked through the frosted sliding glass doors out of security and into Reynaldo’s arms.
During the 30-minute drive to their house, Emibal was a bit sick from the altitude change, but it was too early to tell if the altitude would permanently affect his health. As soon as Reynaldo saw his son, he said he would move if it were necessary. He cuts coca leaves three hours from their home for a living, and he must travel 17 hours by bus to sell them. Moving would mean traveling further from his business, but he said it would be worth it to have Emibal healthy.
Reynaldo’s faith has changed drastically since he first found out that Emibal was sick. In the beginning, he tried to heal Emibal himself, and he couldn’t leave his son in God’s hands. But as time progressed and everything else failed, Reynaldo fell to his knees in obedience to God.
“When I was 24 and my mom died and I was in charge of the house and all of my siblings, I decided to give my heart to God,” he said. “But because of my job and all of the things I was supposed to do as the oldest one in the family, I think I was not having a really good relationship with God.
“Now I think that I really believe in God more than before. Now I think that I have a very close relationship with God. Before that, I used to just go to the church, but now I know Him. Now what I feel that I must do is testify and share with other people about what God did with Emibal.”