Wilgrens is a 15-year-old boy, who has had anything but an easy life. When Wilgrens was 7 years old, he was hit by a motorcycle, and during his hospitalization, he had an X-ray that showed a problem with his heart. His childhood was later complicated by fevers and a six-month hospitalization for tuberculosis.
He often reported getting short of breath easily when walking and running, and sometimes, he would get dizzy. He would take himself to the hospital, where he was told, “you have a heart problem,” but no one would give him medication to treat the problem. Occasionally, the hospital would give him pain medication for his painful breathing.
As if all this was not enough, Wilgrens’ father died from tuberculosis, and his mother was killed in the earthquake of 2010. At the age of 12, he was an orphan. His sister told him he could not live with her because she doubted her capability to care for him with his heart condition. So, he found himself living in a tent city with his sister-in-law in what has been called the “worst city in the world” and the “poorest of the poor” in Cité Soley, Haiti.
Through word of mouth, Wilgrens was put in contact with CHADASHA, an organization that partners with ICHF to help Haitian children receive treatment for heart disease. In May of 2013, Wilgrens, along with his sister-in-law, made the eight-hour journey by bus from Port-au–Prince, Haiti, to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He was evaluated by the ICHF cardiologist and diagnosed with severe mitral stenosis secondary to rheumatic fever and was told he would need surgery to repair the valve
Two months later, ICHF had a surgical mission trip to Santiago, Dominican Republic. Wilgrens made the journey back to Dominican Republic, and the local surgeon in Santiago, with assistance from the ICHF surgical team, replaced Wilgrens’ mitral valve.
Wilgrens returned to Haiti with his new heart valve, but fortunately, he is no longer living in Cité Soley. He has a safe home in one of the orphanages, has three meals a day and has access to medication. Staff members at the orphanage say that he is a hard worker, a smart young man and a great mentor to the younger children.