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Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
Email: mfarris@wwltv.com | Twitter: @megfarriswwl

Living in rural China, a 13-month-old boy, would only have lived a few years. He was born with a hole in his heart and no access to health care like the city dwellers.So a team from New Orleans stepped in to save his life.

Yuanchang Meng is now healthy. His family's budget is mended too.

'There's only one breadwinner for the family and they had to move. And so he's had to take a job making less money and most of that money was going towards the child's medication and the child's health care,' explained Stephanie Berault the Executive Director of HeartGift Louisiana.

This is the 18th child born with a heart defect helped by HeartGift Louisiana. Children come from all over the world and have come from 14 different countries since the Louisiana chapter started in 2010. Doctors at Children's Hospital donate their expertise. The hospital helps with rates too. But Claire Noe Koch had a special reason to help. Her 8th-grade daughter was born with a heart defect that was repaired when she was four months old.

'My father always instilled in us that we have to do for others,' said Claire Noe Koch of the Betty S. and James A. Noe Foundation that recently closed.

The Noe Foundation gave HeartGift funding for Meng's surgery because Claire's grandfather, Governor James A. Noe, Senior and father, James A. Noe, Junior, had close ties with Lieutenant General Claire Lee Chennault who led the Flying Tigers and defended China against the Japanese before World War II.

'We wanted to sponsor a child specifically from China because we saw it as an opportunity to give back and to help with the good people of China and our relations with China,' said Koch who was emotionally touched. 'My father was in China during the march of Mao (Zedong) and he saw first hand what was happening in China and saw General Chennault's efforts and it profoundly changed his life.'

The open heart surgery was a complete success. The little boy's heart functions normally. It was enlarged and in congestive heart failure but the doctor believes that will be resolved.

'There is a good chance that, with time, it's not going to happen overnight, that probably within a few months, the heart was going to regain its normal dimensions,' said Dr. Joseph Caspi, of LSU Health Sciences Center who is the Director of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery at Children's Hospital.

A mother's gratitude is universal, no matter what her language.

'I really appreciate the gift by the foundation and this is really saved my boy's life,' said Hong Xu through a translator about her son.

HeartGift can always use your help. It needs corporate or private donations of any amount, volunteers for anything big or small, especially to be a host family or translators of many languages, and blood donations. Meng needed 12 units of blood during his surgery.

For more call 504-676-4323 or visit www.HeartGift.org.

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