Five years ago a compelling photograph of 12 year old Arminda, by our volunteer photographer Mathew Lynn, made the front page.
Before surgery Arminda was too sick to eat. Like many children in Timor-Leste, Arminda suffered from rheumatic fever. This left her heart valve chronically inflamed and closed to a pinhole.
Weak and with little appetite, she was fading away. Arminda was rushed to Melbourne for a high-tech mitral balloon procedure with leading cardiologist, Professor Richard Harper. Arminda was the smallest, and youngest, patient Professor Harper had treated. He was unsure if the catheter used to position the medical balloon in the heart valve would fit in her femoral vein.
Despite some anxious moments, the procedure was a success. A day after the surgery she was walking around the block, breathing normally for the first time in years. Now she is back at school.
From a frail child to a flourishing young woman – what a difference a healthy heart makes.
“When I finish school I want to become a heart doctor so I can help find ways to make people better,” Arminda said.