A Heartfelt Friendship
Volunteer Heather Brook raises funds to purchase a life-saving pacemaker for Don Santiago, one of the elderly at the Ranch.
May 29, 2012 - Honduras
To say Don Santiago is young at heart would be an immense understatement. If one were to know only of his playful antics and daily off-beat shenanigans without ever meeting him, they would be convinced he was a youthful, exuberant child. He is not. In fact, he is far from it; at 76 years old, Don Santiago is one of the oldest members of our NPH family.
At Casa Eva (the home for the “grandparents” of Rancho Santa Fe) Don Santiago is often seen practicing his karate moves in the front yard outside the building. One should always pass him with caution. Although he’s sure to greet you with a friendly smile and enthusiastic “good afternoon,” he’s also often known to pack a squirt gun in his pants that he’s not afraid to use. Don Santiago is very popular amongst the children at the Ranch, always bringing an optimistic and lighthearted attitude wherever he goes.
Heather and Don Santiago
In early April, Don Santiago fell ill. He was off the Ranch visiting family members when he began to feel sick. They took him to the local hospital in Tegucigalpa where he was diagnosed with a severe heart block, obstructing the electrical conduction system of his heart, causing his heart to beat very irregularly. He would need a pacemaker to fix the problem, and if he didn’t receive it soon, his heart rate would slow to a pace not suitable to support his life.
To receive a surgery in Honduras the patient must personally supply the doctor with all the necessary medical supplies for the operation. Pacemakers are expensive. Don Santiago’s family wanted to contribute but said they would be unable to come up with the money in the short period of time that the surgery was necessary.
The day volunteer nurse Heather Brook (USA) found out about Don Santiago’s desperate situation she knew she had to do something. “Don Santiago has always been such a nice presence here,” Heather says. “He makes the kids smile and really keeps up the energy level at Casa Eva.” Knowing the budget is currently tight at NPH Honduras, Heather took it upon herself to try to raise the urgent funds.
At 9:30 PM that night, Heather wrote an email copying all the family and friends who follow her blog as recipients. In her email Heather told of who Don Santiago is, describing his joyful and enthusiastic personality and the high spirits he brings to everyone around him. She then explained his heart condition and reality of his grim situation. And finally, she asked for donations to help afford the pacemaker. The next morning, Heather checked her email.
She had already raised enough money to buy Don Santiago’s pacemaker in full.
In fact, through numerous generous donations of friends and family, she had made more than enough. Heather promptly informed others of the incredible news. She and the Ranch doctor immediately headed to the city. They purchased the pacemaker and Don Santiago had his surgery immediately afterwards.
Heather has since left the Ranch as her 16-month volunteer experience as a nurse at NPH came to an end. While here, Heather volunteered her time and service to help our pequeños and the local Hondurans living in our surrounding communities. She never gave up this mentality through her last minute here; she continued serving others with her final effort to assist Don Santiago.
Since leaving the hospital and returning to the Ranch, Don Santiago is back to his normal self. In fact, already back chasing frogs in his front yard, he seems more energetic and playful than ever. While rejuvenated and healthy, Don Santiago is entirely aware of the seriousness that was his condition. He finds it amazing that there are kind people who will give money to help someone whom they have never met. He is incredibly thankful to Heather and also to her friends and family who so generously donated to save his life.
Communications Officer - NPH Honduras