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In nearly three decades as a heart surgeon, Dr. David Adams has saved the lives of more than 11,000 patients, making it impossible to keep up with all of them. That’s why he was so touched when one former patient, Berthony Bertrand, dropped by to see him at CEDIMAT Hospital in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Dr. Adams and Berthony reunite in Santo Domingo, Domincan Republic in October 2019.

Berthony and Dr. David Adams reunite on a recent Mitral Foundation Children's Valve Project medical mission to the Dominican Republic.

Berthony, now 27, was the first patient Dr. Adams operated on at CEDIMAT, where he regularly performs heart surgery on children and young adults suffering from life-threatening valve disease.

“I didn’t get the chance before,” Berthony told Dr. Adams, “but I just wanted to say thank you.”

Three years ago, Berthony’s heart was so weakened from the effects of rheumatic fever that he could barely breathe. Without surgery, he would die soon – and no surgery was available in his native Haiti. But thanks to support from Every Heartbeat Matters – a philanthropic initiative led by Edwards Lifesciences Foundation to educate, screen and treat 1.5 million underserved people fighting heart valve disease – as well as support from Haiti Cardiac Alliance, CEDIMAT, the David Ortiz Children’s Fund, Mount Sinai Health System, and the Mitral Foundation, Berthony was able to get lifesaving surgery at CEDIMAT, free of charge.

Mary Joy greets Berthony at CEDIMAT.

Mary Joy Santillan, RN, greets Berthony in the hall of CEDIMAT hospital, years after his surgery.

Since then, Dr. Adams and his team from Mount Sinai – in close collaboration with CEDIMAT's Drs. Juan Leon and Janet Toribio – have saved 23 children with similar life-threatening heart disease. Their goal is to save 100 children, and in the process train CEDIMAT’s team to perform complex valve repairs on their own, as part of the Mitral Foundation's Children’s Valve Project.

“You look really great, buddy” Dr. Adams told Berthony, who now runs up steps two at a time. “Your valve is going to last a long, long time. And if there’s ever any problem, I’ll fix it myself.”

Following surgery, Berthony made a full recovery, and Edwards Lifesciences gave him a job at its Dominican factory. Two years later, Berthony is working at a call center for American dentists, all while saving money to pursue his dream: opening his own restaurant.

“Before I got surgery, it was so difficult, and I was so frustrated. I thought I was going to die,” Berthony said. “Now I have days to come, and I can still realize my dreams.”

For Dr. Adams, seeing Berthony again, healthy and thriving, was very satisfying. “I’m so proud of you,” he said. “You were our trailblazer!”

Page Created: Jul. 24, 2020 Last Updated: Jan. 04, 2023