Airing throughout this month will be the pilot episode for a new reality TV series, "Children's Heart," which offers an inside look into how one organization is bringing children to the United States for live-saving surgery not available in their own countries.
"These are children whose families have almost given up hope. They know it is only a matter of time before they die from their heart condition," says Cindy Bonsall, director of Children's Heart Project, a project of the international Christian relief group Samaritan's Purse. "It is our passion to help these children and give them back hope and the opportunity to live."
It was in 1997 when Samaritan's Purse found many children in Bosnia suffering from congenital heart defects who could not be adequately treated because the country's ethnic war had damaged hospitals and equipment and forced many doctors to flee.
After contacting a hospital in the United States that agreed to donate medical care, Samaritan's Purse arranged for the first child to undergo what is often routine surgery in the United States. Today the project has moved beyond Bosnia into Kosovo, Mongolia, Honduras, and Uganda, with plans to expand into other areas of the world where treatment is unavailable.
"Children's Heart Project is so touching," comments Cissie Graham Lynch, who worked for the Children's Heart Project as part of an internship to complete her college degree. "To take a child and transform its life, to give a child possibility to live, is just a remarkable cycle from beginning to end."
Lynch, who is the daughter of Samaritan's Purse president and CEO Franklin Graham, is among those featured in the pilot episode of "Children's Heart," which will be airing on the Daystar, MYfamily and INSP networks.
The pilot episode tells the story of three children from Mongolia with life-threatening heart defects who were flown to the United States in 2007, along with their parents and interpreters, for a chance at life. It also highlights the two families who hosted the visitors from Mongolia and the ways that God changed their hearts through the process.
"Not only does God work on their hearts, but it's a heart project for the host families as well," says Nancy Hanson, who, along with her husband, has hosted at least four families through the Children's Heart Project.
As of January 2008, the Children's Heart Project has brought more than 450 children with life-threatening heart defects to North America for heart surgery not available in their country.
Some 54 hospitals in North America have participated in the Children's Heart Project, including the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., St. Vincent in Indianapolis, Ind., and Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
The hospital in the pilot episode of "Children's Heart," which began airing on April 20 and will run through May 3, is the Methodist Children's Hospital of South Texas.
On the Web:
More information, a program schedule and ways to provide feedback on the Children's Heart pilot at childrensheart.tv.