"I don't have no other words. Every time I sit and think about it, even the night before this surgery, I was crying because without World Pediatric Project I don't know if Jahziah would still be alive. Without them I don't know if I would be here this strong. Strangers came to my rescue. I have sincere gratitude and thank you for everything."
Standing next to the hospital bed of her 11 month old daughter, Ephah jumps into action as Jahziah comes out of sedation. This is a familiar routine and she's been here before. Jahziah underwent open heart surgery less than 24 hours ago, her second surgery at Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU, and Ephah knows exactly how to soothe her baby. "We've been here before, we've been in this room before, we've been in this position before. She needs to make sure she sees me and gets comfort. She's here and she's okay."
The journey to this moment was not an easy one, but Ephah never gave up. Ephah fought to ensure her baby received the care she needed to survive. After years of waiting, Ephah gave birth to her beautiful baby girl 8 weeks premature in her home country of Guyana. Jahziah was born with Down syndrome, but a mother's intuition lead Ephah to quickly realize that something else was amiss. She took Jahziah to the pediatrician and an x-ray discovered that there were problems with her heart.
Ephah never stopped fighting for Jahziah, reaching out to local media and organizations in Guyana to bring attention to Jahziah's cause.
The following months brought a number of frustrating hospital visits and conversations with doctors and hospital officials. One doctor described Jahziah's declining health as "running a marathon wet," but nothing was being done to help save her baby. "At this point in time I have a sick child in my hands and they keep telling me to let her wait. This is my child and I am sick of watching her die. I refused to give up, I need to do something." Exasperated and desperate, Jahziah reached out to the local media for help.
Their story was brought to the attention of Shriner's Hospital for Children and because this case is cardiac centered was referred to World Pediatric Project. When Ephah spoke on the phone with WPP Program Director of U.S. Referrals, Pilar Waters, "everything got easier." Travel arrangements to Richmond, Virginia were made and Ephah finally felt confident that her child would receive the life-saving care she desperately needed.
Mother and baby arrived in Richmond in July and settled into their room at The Doorways feeling nervous and hopeful. VCU pediatric cardiologist Dr. Jin Lee examined Jahziah and what previous doctors had told Ehpah was a swollen kidney was actually a tumor on her kidney. The cardiac surgery that Ephah had tirelessly advocated for would have to be postponed until the kidney and tumor could be removed. After a successful surgery, mom and Jahziah's team of doctors and nurses worked hard to get her stable and ready to undergo the surgery to fix her heart. Dr. Thomas Yeh explained to Ephah that Jahziah had a hole in the upper and lower chambers of her heart and had one big valve when there are supposed to be two. Knowing this would be the most serious and high risk operation Jahziah had ever undergone only made Ephah's resolve stronger.
"We will get through this."
This September, a little more than 2 months after arriving in Richmond, Dr. Yeh performed a successful open heart surgery and Jahziah is recovering well. Her mother's prayers had been answered.
As a result of Ephah's grit and the world class care of her WPP doctors and medical team at CHoR at VCU, Jahziah will have a life filled with energy, smiles, and hope. Ephah is most excited to watch her daughter move. Her face lights up talking about seeing Jahziah creep, or crawl, something her child has never been able to do-until now.
As the sedatives wear off and Jahziah starts to wake up and begins to cry, Ephah comforts her daughter with kisses and whispers with confidence, "It's okay. Mama's got you."
Jahziah can now look forward to a life of memorable moments thanks to her mom's tireless efforts and the generosity of WPP's volunteer doctors and donors just like you. Help us provide a life of healing, hope, and happiness to more children just like Jahziah with a gift to our A Life Of... Annual Fund.