Big Disaster, Small Miracle

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When Katrina struck, hospital patients were evacuated. But in a twist of fate, Jacques Brumfield, a 9-year-old dying of a congenital heart defect, got a second chance. Elizabeth Kaledin has the story.
CBS

There is a small miracle that came out of the big hurricane disaster.

CBS News Correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin reports that Katrina may have actually boosted a young heart patient's prospects for life.

For nine-year-old Jacques Brumfield and his family, surviving Hurricane Katrina was the easy part.

As the storm blew into the Gulf, the little boy lay dying of a congenital heart defect in a New Orleans hospital.

With few resources and no options, his parents were panicked.

"Doctors told me there was nothing they could do for him," said Jacques Williams, the boy's father.

Then, in a strange twist of fate, disaster struck. When Katrina's winds let loose and the levees broke, hospital patients were evacuated – and Jacques got a second chance.

He was taken first to Baton Rouge and then on to Arkansas Children's Hospital, a facility famous for treating pediatric heart problems.

Since no artificial heart was small enough for the boy, the experienced doctors there acted quickly to import a special pump known as a Berlin Heart. The FDA had to grant special approval to use it, and the device was flown overnight from Germany specifically to save Jacques' life.

The small pump was implanted late Thursday and so far so good. But doctors say it's a temporary fix and Jacques has a long struggle ahead

"Jacques really needs heart...a heart donor," said Dr. Robert Morrow of Arkansas Children's Hospital.

As for his parents, they've lost jobs and don't even know if their homes are still standing back in Louisiana. But none of that seems to matter. They have only one wish for the future:

"I hope I can hear him say daddy again," said the boy's father.

Jacques is still sedated and weak but if he pulls through, his family will have quite a story to share – about getting a shot at life he never would have received if nature hadn't interfered.

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com