Working remotely is very different than being connected through a Celanese physical site location. In this regard, volunteer opportunities are self-initiated. As I looked for ways to volunteer, I reflected on what I had done in the past to see if I could repeat those actions. To start, I signed up to be a mentor at a local elementary school. While volunteering in my mentorship role, I received a call from the patient coordinator for the HeartGift organization and was asked if I could host a mother and a child from Honduras. I was familiar with them because my family had volunteered with HeartGift previously. My spouse and I discussed the opportunity and agreed to help.

When we host a family, we like to fully participate in the program by making ourselves available to help every step of the way. We welcome the family into our home before and after the surgery, transport them to all their medical appointments, and most importantly, make them feel at home while they are undergoing this life-changing event. Our family usually is selected to host a family that is Spanish speaking because I am able to translate all communications between the healthcare providers and the child’s parent. Everyone in our family has had the chance to practice their Spanish and improve their communication skills. Once the date for the visit was finalized, we greeted our house guests at the nearby airport. Hosting a family again was exciting and stressful. Having a very sick child in your home is concerning, but we had hope and faith that all would go well. This would not be our first time as we had hosted six families in our home before.

The child had been identified as having a heart condition at the age of three months old while being treated for other health issues. His mother then followed up with a cardiologist to seek treatment. Because of his heart defect, the child had very little appetite, would tire easily, and would sleep most of the time. The cardiologist requested the case be evaluated by the HeartGift organization and our guest was approved in 2018 to his receive his surgery at a children’s medical center in Texas. The surgery was scheduled for March 1, 2019.

HeartGift works with many agencies around the world to identify and select children who have congenital heart defects where medical treatment is scarce or nonexistent. They arranged to bring the child and a parent to the United States to obtain surgery and save the life of the child. Without this surgery, these children would likely not survive. Congenital heart surgery is the most common type of birth defect in the world and in the United States and we have the medical expertise to correct these conditions. The children that undergo these surgeries get to live a healthy life free from additional surgeries or medication. After many medical tests and medical procedures, the child’s condition was identified and confirmed as Supravalvular Aortic Stenosis, as well as having pulmonary restricted arteries. 

On the appointed day in March, this 11-month-old boy received open heart surgery and his defects were repaired. The surgery was long and complicated, but it was successful and he was well on his way to full recovery and remained in the hospital for several days under constant monitoring and treatment. He was then released and returned to our home. Children are resilient and heal very quickly after surgery. This little boy had transformed before our eyes into a very energetic child with a huge appetite. His stamina increased significantly. He was back in his baby walker exploring all over the house. He was then cleared to return back to Honduras with his mother and they flew back on March 24.

We were honored to serve as the host family for this young son and his mother. Volunteering for this organization has greatly impacted our family. We feel like our contribution is a special way to help HeartGift. We are privileged to know some very amazing people that share in this work. The team of doctors, nurses, community volunteers, donors, and friends that support this organization are extraordinary. We were blessed to have support from our friends and co-workers. Young families donated clothing or lent us walkers, toys, cribs, strollers and much more while they were with us.  

I am very grateful to work for Celanese, a company which encourages us to give back to our community. We also have the opportunity to help organizations like these with financial support from the CauseCards for volunteer efforts. Experiences like these remind me that life is precious and we should use our time, talent and treasure to improve the quality of life for others. In the end you can come to realize that in giving to others, you receive experiences that will impact you for the rest of your life. Learn more about HeartGift at heartgift.org.