Natnael (Nati) is a quiet boy who has endured much more pain and suffering than anyone should ever have to endure. When Blessing the Children found him, he was five years old, wandering the streets of Debre Zeyit, crying and very hungry. Nati had been in town for about 20 days. His parents recently passed away and someone put him on a bus to come to his uncle’s house.

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Nati when BCI found him.

Nati lives with his uncle, aunt, and young cousin.  Neither Nati’s aunt or uncle work because of their age and physical ailments so the added pressure of another mouth to feed has put a great strain on the family. Upon admittance to the program, Blessing the Children took Nati to the doctor for a routine physical, where it was discovered he has a serious heart condition called a ventricular septal defect (a hole in his heart).

After this discovery in 2011, Nati’s long journey began. Five years of tests, medicine, poking, prodding and visits to numerous different specialists and hospitals. At one point, in 2013, Nati was schedule to have heart surgery in Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa, but his case was put on hold for unknown reasons.

After the Black Lion Hospital put Nati’s case on hold, we began looking at options to bring Nati to the U.S. or Canada for treatment. After speaking with several doctors and specialists from all over the world, we were told about Fortis Escorts Heart Institute in India. Fortis is said to be the best cardiac hospital in India and comparable to the best in the world. With India being a closer option than the U.S. and with less visa restrictions for Nati and our staff, we began making plans.

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Nati in 2012

Finally, after five years, Nati was approved for his surgery in India! With this joyous announcement came another hurdle though – cost. Between the cost of the surgery, airfare, room and board, and meals, Blessing the Children needed to raise over $4,000 to cover this trip.

With passion, diligence, and the support of many generous donors, we were able to raise the funds needed for Nati and scheduled his surgery for Friday, January 22nd. Accompanied by Abebe, Blessing the Children’s Program Officer, Natnael left for India on January 17th.

Both Nati and Abebe were first time flyers and while the trip was a little bumpy for them, then arrived safely in India for Nati’s surgery, which went off without a hitch! After his surgery, Nati spent a few days in the ICU for monitoring and was able to have solid foods. After his 10-day checkup, Nati got the ok to start moving around and even made his way to the children’s play area to read a book and color.

After two weeks, Nati’s appetite was back with vigor and he was excited to do a little sightseeing around town. As Nati’s body continued to heal, the hospital staff monitored him and gave him the OK to travel home three weeks after his surgery.

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Nati after his surgery.

Upon Nati’s arrival home, he was checked by a local doctor and we are excited to say he is doing great. This has been a long, painful journey for Nati but he has kept a positive attitude and a light heart. This experience has been life changing, and lifesaving, and we are looking forward to seeing what God has in store for Nati’s future!

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Nati is excited to be eating real food again!

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Nati enjoying a book in the Children’s Play Room.

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Nati cutting the bread at his “Welcome Home” Party.

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