Salvadoran boys hope to 'lead normal lives' after heart surgeries at Barrington hospital

BARRINGTON – Two El Salvadoran teens hope to lead “normal lives” after surgery to repair their heart conditions next week at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington.

Diego Adolfo Chavez and Jose Vazquez Moran, both 17, had never flown on an airplane before flying Thursday from their respective cities, Santa Lucia and Ciudad Arce – suburbs of the El Salvadoran capital, San Salvador – to Chicago.

Besides having their ages in common, the teens also share something else – Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome.

Their hearts each have an “extra pathway” that can lead to supraventricular tachycardia, or episodes of rapid heartbeats. Although the condition is not always life-threatening, it prohibits the boys from doing basic things – such as eating chocolate or going to scary movies.

Moran said he just wants to be able to ride a bike, and Chavez wants to play soccer.

The international nonprofit Healing the Children tries to bring four children each year to the Barrington hospital to receive treatment for conditions that cause heart arrhythmias such as the boys’.

“We bring kids here for surgeries they couldn’t get at home,” said Jeff Degner, HTC’s Illinois-Indiana chapter president.

Chavez and Moran are staying with Liz Schauer and her husband in Barrington while they undergo their respective procedures and recover.

“We aren’t ready to have kids yet, but we have extra bedrooms,” Schauer said. “It seemed like a great opportunity.”

The boys left their homes in El Salvador, which have electricity but no plumbing, in 86-degree weather. They arrived to 26-degree weather, Degner said.

Barrington chapters of Rotary International donated coats, hats and shoes so the two could better adjust to the drastic temperature change, said Monique Jungel, a member of the Barrington Breakfast Rotary Club.

The two arrived at Good Shepherd on Friday morning to have blood tests and echocardiograms done before their surgeries on Monday and Tuesday. Two Barrington High School freshmen also came to the hospital, bearing signs that read “Bienvenidos a la familia” or “Welcome to the family,” to make them feel more comfortable.

Chavez and Moran said everyone they had met has been kind and caring.

The teens will need to lie low for two or three days after surgery, but they should never experience the same symptoms again if the surgery is successful. More than 30 children have received “life-changing” surgeries at the hospital since its partnership with Healing the Children began, Good Shepherd public affairs and marketing manager Kathleen Troher said.

“The idea of people from different lands and different cultures [coming together] for the betterment of strangers is wonderful to see,” Degner said.

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