By Kathy Walsh

DENVER (CBS4) – A baby girl from Mongolia has come to Denver for surgery to repair a hole in her heart. It’s a birth defect called a ventricular septal defect. Doctors say if it’s left untreated, 10-month-old Sarana will likely die in her teens or 20s.

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(credit: CBS)

Her mother had never been on an airplane. The family lives in what’s called a ger, a portable, round tent. They have no indoor plumbing or running water. The baby couldn’t get the operation she needed in Mongolia.

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(credit: Sarana’s family)

The charity, Samaritan’s Purse, and Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children (RMHC) in Denver agreed to help.

When CBS4 met Sarana’s mother, Narangarav, she was trying a universal mom maneuver … using videos on her smart phone to distract her anxious baby. Sarana was captivated by a cartoon, while she had ultrasound pictures taken of her tiny heart.

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(credit: CBS)

Pediatric Cardiologist Dr. Michael Pettersen at RMHC focused on the lower pumping chambers.

“There’s a large hole between those two ventricles,” Pettersen explained to CBS 4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

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(credit: CBS)

Sarana’s hole in her heart allows too much blood flow to the lungs at very high pressure.

“Eventually this causes irreversible damage to the lung arteries,” said Pettersen.

Sarana has congestive heart failure with heavy sweating, rapid breathing and poor growth.

“And gets sick very easily,” said Narangarav, through an interpreter.

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(credit: CBS)

The charity, Samaritan’s Purse, got Sarana and her mother to Denver. Pediatric Heart Surgeon Dr. Steven Leonard and the staff at RMHC will repair the baby’s heart free of charge.

“Everyone here just loves being able to be involved in the lives of these little kids,” said Leonard.

Sarana’s worried mother is grateful.

“The doctor promised that after the surgery, Sarana will grow quickly and be a healthy, normal child,” she said.

And, perhaps, a child full of gratitude for a hospital a world away but always in her heart.

Sarana’s surgery is scheduled for Thursday. It usually takes five hours. Sarana is expected to be in RMHC for a few days and stay in Denver for at least a month.

Kathy Walsh is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 since 1984. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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