DENVER (CBS4) – A 7-year-old from Honduras is recovering from lifesaving surgery. Her heart was repaired in Denver thanks to a surgeon at the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center and a team of charities.

CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh visited the very grateful little girl and her mother.

The Ruiz family came a long way for help. They live in a small village in Honduras and they’ve been worried about their little girl for years. They finally found help in Denver with people who have a heart for serving others.

It’s hard to believe Katherin Ruiz is just 5 days out from a 5-hour surgery to have her heart repaired and she’s feeling great. Through an interpreter, Katherin’s mother, Wuendy Ruiz, said that’s a big change for her little girl who has suffered for years.

“She will get really tired and she will have like bluish nails, finger nails,” Wuendy said.

That’s because Katherin was born with a fatal heart defect and time was running out.

“She probably would not have survived beyond her teenage years without the surgery,” said Dr. Steven Leonard, a pediatric heart surgeon.

No doctor in Honduras could perform the operation. The Ruiz family’s only chance was an American surgical team on a charitable mission in Honduras. The group couldn’t get to Katherin’s case, but Leonard promised to do the heart surgery in Denver at the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.

“I think we need to give back,” Leonard said.

The hospital covered the cost of the operation and Leonard restored Katherin’s heart to almost normal.

“She should be able to grow up and have children herself and hopefully have a very long, productive and good quality life,” Leonard said.

Katherin will recover in Colorado for another week. The goal is to have her home in Honduras for the holidays.

Leonard belongs to an organization called Friends of Barnabus. The group, along with a group called Samaritan’s Purse, coordinated the trip to Colorado.

Leonard said the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children has committed to doing at least two or three of the surgeries for Honduran children each year.


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