Five-year-old to get healthy heart for Valentine's Day

Five-year-old to get healthy heart for Valentine's Day

POSTED: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 - 11:44am

UPDATED: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 - 12:17pm

New Orleans surgeons fixed a hole in the heart of a 5-year-old girl from the Philippines in time for Valentine's Day.

Julia Villarta, 5, now sings from her now repaired heart.

"My life is very simple," she sang at Children's Hospital. "My dreams are few and little."

Julia was diagnosed with atrial septal defect, and unlike children in the United States -- who have access to lifesaving surgeries, children in the Philippines, her home country, do not. Her mother, Dann Villarta contacted about 70 nonprofit organizations to help her pay for the expensive surgery.

"I was just crying the whole time," said Dann Villarta. "And just praying to God that he might send somebody and some angels."

Her prayers were answered when she heard from HeartGift, a nonprofit organization that sponsors lifesaving surgeries for children from developing countries.

"The night before the flight I couldn't stop crying. I'm happy. I'm happy that I found angels in this place who can help me," said Villarta.

Angels at Children's Hospital and HeartGift sponsored Julia's surgery and stay in New Orleans.

"How can you not be kind to a child in need?" said sponsor Claire Koch.

Julia's doctor Dr. Joseph Caspi, says her open-heart surgery is a standard procedure that lasts four hours.

"In this age group, the recovery is very quick," said Dr. Caspi. "Children are very resilient, and in four or five days we will see her walking and running and of course singing, because she loves to sing."

And on Valentine's day, 5-year-old Julia received the gift of a healthy heart.

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