Sarahi was one our first patients when we opened our free clinic in Santa Cruz, Bolivia in July of 2002. Sarahi was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus, and a shunt was placed into her brain at birth to drain the excess fluid that would accumulate.
In November of 2002, Sarahi came to the US for a revision of that shunt. She was 5 years old and had been having severe headaches for more than a year. During the weeks that followed, Sarahi had several successful surgeries at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, a private Catholic hospital in Baton Rouge, LA.
On July 2, 2009, Sarahi returned to Baton Rouge. She had outgrown the shunt and was having severe headaches again. Doctors in Bolivia were not willing to perform the lifesaving brain surgery that she needed. Once again, the hospital welcomed Sarahi with open arms. Within one week of Sarahi’s arrival, her pediatric surgeon, Dr. Robert Upp, and her neurosurgeon, Dr. Allen Joseph, had replaced the shunt, and she was free of headaches! God used this amazing team of doctors and health care professionals to not only save Sarahi’s life, but also to greatly improve the quality of her life.
In Bolivia, the schools do not make provision for children with special needs. Sarahi had no bowel or bladder control. She wore diapers to school. When it was time to go outside and play, she would sit all alone against the wall and watch the other kids having fun. She longed to have friends, but she had none.
In Baton Rouge, an entire community of physicians, physical therapists, nurses, pastors, and friends embraced Sarahi, and she began to feel “normal” for the first time in her life! She began interacting with others, playing games, and even learning English! She amazed everyone by gaining some bladder and bowel control and getting out of diapers for the first time in her life! Her doctors are very encouraged by this, and they now believe it is possible for Sarahi to gain full control with time and training! In Sarahi’s own words, her life has been “forever changed!”