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  Donation of an Echocardiograph to a Uruguayan Medical Institute:  the "Gift of Life"

The Gift of Life, Inc.

The Donation of an Hewlett Packard Echocardiograph System to a Uruguayan Medical Institute:

The Gift of Life is a Rotary Club project started almost 20 years ago which has provided over 1,500 life saving heart operations for children worldwide who would not have otherwise received the medical care that they required.

The Gift of Life project for Uruguay is made possible by the cooperative efforts of Hewett Packard, United Airlines, and the Uruguayan American Chamber of Commerce in the USA, with additional contributions from the Montevideo and Rocha Rotary Clubs, Victoria Plaza Hotel and TransHotel in Uruguay.


Our Story: A Rotary Project of District 7250

The Gift of Life Program, which was originally initiated in 1975, is today a worldwide Rotary International Service Program. Its Primary purpose is to help those needy children who require corrective heart surgery secure another lease on life through the miracle of open-heart surgery in a Gift of Life participating hospital in the USA.

The Program reaches children throughout the world, including the United States. It is a not-for-profit, tax-exempt corporation whose Board of Directors and members are Rotarians of District 7250 (Brooklyn, Queens and Nassau Counties in New York).

The Concept of the Program began in 1974 when the Manhasset, NY Rotary Club responded to a request for help from a Kampala Rotary Club in Uganda. The response brought five-year old Grace Agwaru on a 5,000 mile journey from Uganda to Roslyn, NY. On November 15, 1974 she underwent a very successful four hour open-heart surgical procedure to close a hole between the two lower chambers of her small heart at St. Francis Hospital, Roslyn, NY.

In 1975 "Gift of Life" Was Born

And, strange as it may seems, what began as a simple response to help one small girl from a far away country has today developed into a very dynamic worldwide movement involving not only thousands of Roatrian and their families, but also countless people from other community-based service and fraternal organizations, including numerous American ethnic community groups: They all united with the primary objective of providing the "Gift of Life" to more than 1,500 children from over 30 countries who have followed Grace Agwaru since 1974.

Children from Around the World

Children with life-threatening cardiac disorders, ranging in age from infants to eighteen years, have been sponsored by Clubs and Districts from throughout the Rotary World. They have come from such countries as Azerbaijan, Belize, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, India, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, West Indies, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, St. Kitts, Salvador, South Africa, South Korea, Russia, Sri Lanka, Trinidad, Uganda, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe. All have been accompanied by either a parent or guardian.

A Joint-Venture Success!

The success of the Program enjoys today is not only due to its great international humanitarian appeal but also because it functions at the "grassroots" level with direct people-to-people contact. The joint-venture between Rotarians in District 7250 and Rotarians in Districts 3650 (Seoul, Korea): 3660 (Busan, Korean) and 3700 (Daegu, Korea) is typical of how the Gift of Life Program has established a bridge of friendship between not only Rotarians in both countries but also between Rotarians and Koreans in America and Koreans and Americans in Korea!

Rotary Clubs in the United States have joined forces enabling children to receive open-heart surgery at St. Francis Hospital (Roslyn, NY); North Shore University Hospital (Manhasset, NY); Schneider Children's Hospital at LIJ (New Hyde Park, NY); Mt Sinai Medical Center (New York, NY); NYU/Bellevue Medical Center (New York, NY); New York Hospital (New York, NY); Westchester County Medical Center (Valhalla, NY); Deborah Heart and Lung Institute (Browns Mills, NJ); United Hospital Medical Center (Newark, NJ); Humana-Audubon Hospital (Louisville, KY); Mercy Hospital (Des Moines, IO); St. Joseph Hospital (Phoenix, AZ); St. Vincent's Hospital (Los Angeles, CA); Cleveland Clinic Foundation (Cleveland, OH); Columbus Children's Hospital (Toledo, OH); University of Texas Medical Branch (Galveston, TX); Medical University of South Carolina (Charleston, SC); Fairfax Hospital (Fairfax, VA); and St. Joseph's Hospital (Tampa, FL).

Contributing to the international success of the Program has been the "Open-Door policy" and the "Welcome Mat" which the American people have laid out for those children and their parents and /or guardians who have been hosted by Rotarians, their families and friends. Then, too, the American hospitals and medical profession have graciously and generously given of their time and services to provide these little children with another "Lease on Life" through the miracle of open-heart surgery . . . thereby, helping these children who will be our future leaders become our Ambassadors of Goodwill and Peace !

Community Bridges of Friendship

With its great international humanitarian appeal, the Gift of Life Program has received wide attention in the media. As a result, a number of American ethnic community groups have come forward to work with the various Rotary organizations involved in their areas to raise funds and become involved with the hospitality chores. Due to their love and dedication to the Program, they have made the child and its parent and / or guardian's stay in America a truly pleasant and memorable occasion.

These groups are essentially Italian-American, Polish-American, Greek-American, Portuguese-American, Hispanic-American, Korean-American, Russian-American, Chinese-American, Ukrainian-American and Colombian-American communities in practically every major city in America! Also, assisting are such service and fraternal organizations as the Order of the Sons of Italy in America, The Lions, and the Knights of Columbus.

Participating Rotary Districts

We are encouraged by the fact that since the inception of the Program in 1975 additional Rotary Districts, worldwide, have developed their own Gift of Life Program, through the assistance of Rotarians in Districts 7250. These Rotary Districts are: Warsaw, Poland; Seoul, Republic of Korea; Busan, Republic of Korea; Daegu, Republic of Korea; West Indies; Dominican Republic; Torreon-Laguna, Mexico; Belize, El Salvador; San Jose, CA; Culver City, CA; Utah, USA; Colorado, USA; Arizona, USA; Texas, USA; Norfolk, VA; Chicago, IL; Ohio, USA; Kentucky, USA; Sarasota, FL; Albany, NY; Manhattan, Westchester, Bermuda, Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau, NY; Suffolk, NY; New Jersey, USA; Virginia, USA; South Carolina, USA; Morocco; Nigeria; Uganda; Moscow, Russia.

Also of special note is the fact that many Gift of Life joint-ventures are currently in progress between individual Rotary Clubs in the USA and those in foreign countries.

Joint-Venture Sponsorship - Medical Information

Before a child can be accepted for corrective heart surgery, it is most important that the Rotary Club sponsoring the child secure and send the following data from the referring physician of the family as set forward in the Gift of Life medical protocol:

1. Patient's complete medical history
2. Recent chest x-ray
3. EKG report and tape
4. Echo Cardiogram tape and cauterization report

The medical information upon its receipt is reviewed by a team of Pediatric Cardiologists and Cardiac Surgeons from participating hospitals. Following these studies, notification is sent to the sponsoring club with the recommendations of these physicians.

Sponsoring Club Responsibilities

Should a child selected for the Gift of Life Program, it will be the responsibility of the sponsoring Rotary Club or Rotary District to provide the following:

1. Round-trip transportation, including airfare, for the child, one parent or guardian
2. Expense money for necessities to the patient who accompanies the child for a 30-60 day     stay in the USA
3. See that the child and parent have enough clothing for the 30 day period
4. A contribution to the cost of the hospital stay, if possible

Technical Assistance

With the increasing worldwide demand for Gift of Life services, it is most important that self-help in the form of providing instruction and training of physicians, nurses and para-professional personnel be made available by those institutions with this type of expertise and capability.

To reaffirm the Program's technical assistance commitment, the Gift of Life Program sponsored medical mission teams, consisting of one or more Pediatric Cardiologists and a Rotarian on visits to Korea in 1981, the Dominican Republic in 1984-85-93, Belize, C.A. in 1988-93, Russia in 1989-91-93-97, Mexico in 1989-93-97, El Salvador in 1993, Colombia in 1996, and Honduras in 1997. In addition to examining more than 200 children with cardiac defects in Seoul, and Busan, the medical mission explored a self-help program for Maryknoll Hospital was invited to the United States for a six-month period to be trained in various diagnostic techniques concerning cardiac disorders in children. This was followed by two months of training of three physician in various post-operative and operating room procedures. Physicians from Czechoslovakia, Poland, Mexico and Russia have also received technical assistance training through Gift of Life grants.

Gift of Hope Medical Supplies

We have recently initiated another aspect of helping children, by shipping millions of dollars worth of medical supplies to Russia and the former Soviet Union Countries, Honduras and El Salvador, Haiti, Mongolia, Colombia and Moldova. The "Gift of Hope" program was spearheaded by our Chairman Emeritus, Kurt Weishaupt whose acts of caring have taken him to the White House to meet with Mrs. Clinton and Mrs. Yeltsin in our name to share our cause.

Save-a-Child Program

A program where you yourself or your company can save the life of a child. With a generous contribution of $5,000, a child will be selected for you, and you will be able to "walk " this child through their operation and recovery, with the help of Rotarians and interpreters. You or your company will receive a plaque with a photo of the child acknowledging your thoughtful generosity.

The Gift of Life, Inc.
243-02 Northern Blvd., Suite 105
Douglaston, NY 11362
Tel.: (718) 281-0582
Fax: (718) 281-0586

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