It only took eight years, countless hospital visits, three charities and international collaboration for a little girl from Cameroon named Promise to take her first steps. But those steps led her to soar.
Unbeknownst to her parents at the time, Promise was born with Tetralogy of Fallot, a severe heart defect that causes oxygen-poor blood to flow from the heart throughout the body. Though she initially had no symptoms, her parents noticed that by the time she was two years old, she did not like to move around much. They grew concerned when she entered preschool—while other children her age became stronger, Promise’s energy level diminished.
Promise eventually became so weak that she was unable to attend school. She lacked the energy to stand and had to be carried everywhere. She also developed fevers, persistent coughs, breathing difficulties and edemas (swelling caused by a build-up of fluid in the tissues).
For years, Promise’s father, Victor, took her to see numerous doctors, none of whom were able to provide a diagnosis. Often Promise was simply given a medication and sent on her way.
Finally, when she was eight years old, Victor took Promise to a local hospital’s mobile unit where he was told she needed further evaluation at the hospital. That evaluation led to her diagnosis, but also to even more heartbreaking news. The cost of open-heart surgery—which Promise urgently needed to save her life—was well out of her parents’ reach. In fact, it was six times their annual salary.
Not knowing what else to do, Victor told his sister, Edna, that he planned to take Promise to a hospital in Nigeria. He hoped that hospital would be able to provide surgery at a reduced rate. But Edna knew Promise would not survive the trip in her weakened state. So Edna and her husband, Godlove, started spreading the word in the Kansas City area where they lived.
Godlove served on the board for the local United Nations Association, a charity whose mission is to raise awareness about the U.N.’s global efforts. At the next board meeting, he brought Promise’s case to the table and the board voted to help fund her surgery, though they couldn’t cover its entirety.
As it happened, another board member, Justin, knew of the First Hand Foundation’s work.
“By the time we learned about Promise, it was to the point that her condition was life-threatening. There was some urgency to secure funds for her surgery,” recalled Justin. “I brought up that it might be a good avenue for the family to talk with First Hand. First Hand’s mission plays right into what makes Kansas City great—we have some of the best, brightest and most charitable minds that any metropolitan area could ask for. We have a tremendous international presence through organizations like First Hand and I knew Promise’s surgery fit right into their mission.”
Just two weeks after funding approval from the United Nations Association, First Hand and the Cameroon hospital’s charitable arm, Promise was able to undergo surgery. The results were astounding.
“Five days after surgery, the doctors asked my brother to take Promise out for fresh air,” said Edna. “She stood up from the wheelchair and she made her first step. Then she started running. She put her arms out and said, ‘Daddy, I can fly!’ She just kept running like that with her arms open for an hour nonstop. She had never experienced anything like that. Never.”
In fact, Promise recovered so quickly and so completely, it was like she was born with a perfectly healthy heart.
“No one could believe it, even the doctors. Whenever I think about it, I want to cry,” confessed Edna. “Promise is so healthy and happy. She loves to read and go to school. School starts at eight o’clock but at seven o’clock that girl is in school—she is so happy to be there. When I talk to her, she says, “You should see me flying!” My brother says she cannot play without her arms open.”
Edna continued, “I cannot believe the change. My brother keeps saying to me that they are so happy and grateful. That it is a miracle. Every time I call him he cries. He is very, very happy. We want everyone to know the impact their contribution is having. It is a gift of life that is going to live forever. Thank you so much.”
“We the family of Promise thank you all in the U.S. for your help during our daughter’s illness,” he wrote. “Brothers and sisters, you have changed her world.”
Categorized in: Case Grants