Li and Wen never thought their hearts would be strong enough to run, play or even stay in school. But thanks to generous Holt donors, they both received the lifesaving heart surgeries they’d never dared to hope for.
When the phone rang at 10-year-old Li’s home in rural China, it was a phone call he and his aunt never thought they’d receive…
“Is it true I can receive a free surgery?!” Li asked his aunt unbelievably.
“Yes,” his aunt answered, “there are many good-hearted people helping us.”
It was someone from Holt China on the other end of the phone, telling them that because of generous Holt donors who gave to the Valentine’s heart surgery campaign, Li could finally receive the operation he needed.
On the same day, Holt China called another little boy, Wen, to give him and his mother the same news. Together, the boys — who hadn’t met each other yet — would travel to Beijing to receive the surgeries they needed to save their lives.
Li and Wen
Both boys were excited and nervous after receiving this call. On a backdrop of what had been a difficult life for both of them, this was incredible, unexpected news.
When Li was just 1 year old, his parents got divorced. They left him to be raised by his aunt, and he’s never seen them again. They live in poverty, and Li’s aunt knew she’d never have enough money to give him the lifesaving heart surgery he needed.
Wen is 12 years old and lives with his mother. His father passed away when Wen was very young. They live in poverty, too. And like Li’s aunt, Wen’s mom didn’t know how she would ever provide her son with the surgery he needed to repair his heart.
In the past two years, both boys’ conditions had gotten worse. They couldn’t run or play with other kids, and they had chest pains more and more frequently. Every time they felt this pain at school, their teachers called their families to take them back home. Wen and Li both wanted to stay at school — to learn and be with their friends. But time and time again, their heart disease kept them from class.
But then, out of nowhere, there was hope.
Heart Surgeries for Valentine’s Day
In February 2021, for Valentine’s Day, Holt donors came together to generously provide heart surgeries to children in China. Within a week, donors raised over $29,000 to provide lifesaving heart surgeries and treatments to five children in China.
Due to the pandemic and travel restrictions, arranging these surgeries would be difficult. The best hospitals and surgeons are in Beijing, but these children — including Li and Wen — lived in other provinces. But Holt’s staff in China began the process, determined to do all they could.
In early April, plans came together. Li and Wen’s surgeries were scheduled at a top children’s hospital in Beijing — where the chief doctor on staff would perform the operations.
Just days later, Wen with his mother and Li with his aunt met and left together for Beijing by train.
The next day as their train arrived, Holt staff met them at the station and accompanied them to the hospital. On the way to hospital, Holt staff say they found both Li and Wen to be very thoughtful — always offering to carry their aunt and mom’s bags. This was Li and Wen’s first time to Beijing. They were happy and excited, but also nervous about their coming surgeries. Wen said he almost didn’t sleep at all that night!
“We told Wen and Li that Dr. Zhou, who would operate their surgeries, is the best,” a Holt China staff member says. This helped to calm the boys’ nerves as they waited and prepared for their big operations.
Successful Heart Surgeries
Li received his heart surgery on April 13, and Wen received his the next day. Both were successful! After staying in the ICU for one day, both boys were transported to a recovery wing.
A few days later, Sue Liu — Holt China’s country director — came to visit each boy in the hospital. She brought them each a greeting card, a stuffed animal Ox (as it’s the year of the Ox) and a shirt. She told each of them how brave they had been, and encouraged them to become even stronger as they recovered.
About two weeks after their surgeries, Li and Wen went home from the hospital.
As they continue to recover at home, they are so grateful for Holt donors who gave them the most amazing gift. Soon, both boys will be able to run, play, stay in school and be healthy — finally able to live to their fullest potential.
And for all of this, they thank the good-hearted people.