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Haitian Girl To Have Heart Surgery On Quake Anniversary

BRONX, N.Y. (1010 WINS/WCBS 880) – While the earthquake in Haiti a year ago destroyed the house of 15-year-old Lovely Ajuste, the disaster may have also brought her a new heart.

After the quake forced Ajuste's family into one of the many tent cities, Ajuste was able to get treatment at one of the makeshift hospital relief tents where she met Dr. Mahalia Desruisseaux from Albert Einstein College of Medicine's Montefiore Medical Center.


 LISTEN: 1010 WINS' Juliet Papa reports


 LISTEN: WCBS 880's Marla Diamond reports

Dr. Mahalia Desruisseaux
Dr. Mahalia Desruisseaux,of Einstein College of Medicine, who treated Lovely in Haiti and helped to get her here for heart surgery. (Photo/Juliet Papa)

That's when Desruisseaux learned of Ajuste's medical history.

"So, I did a chest x-ray just to make sure she wasn't developing pneumonia or anything and when I saw the chest x-ray this was not pneumonia. Her heart was enlarged," Desruisseaux said.

Now Ajuste will have open heart surgery for her congenital heart condition on Wednesday—the first anniversary of the Haiti earthquake.

Ajuste recalled her decline in health, especially after the disaster.

"They evacuated and that's when she started having problems breathing and she couldn't hardly talk," Ajuste's interpreter said.

While evaluating Ajuste, Desruisseaux learned that the Haitian girl had had trouble breathing—even while walking just a few blocks—since she was 8 years old. An X-ray had shown a hole in her heart.

"She had problems breathing normally, especially when she was climbing the hills," Ajuste's interpreter said.

Desruisseaux had spent a week in her native Haiti after the earthquake and said she was happy she could help Ajuste get her childhood back.

"There was no facility in Haiti that could accommodate her conditions, even in the best of conditions, even before the earthquake," Desruisseaux said.

Ajuste's surgery will be completed by her 16th birthday.

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