Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS -- Valentine's Day will have a special meaning for a little Honduran girl. That's when local doctors will perform life-saving surgery to fix a birth defect.

But while the family is grateful for the gift, there will still be something weighing on their hearts.

Terasa Martinez and her son Minor Garcia wait in the airport for family they haven't seen in four years. HeartGift Louisiana is bringing in another child from a foreign country for life-saving heart surgery at Children's Hospital, donated by LSUHealth Sciences Center surgeons.

'Thank you God for bringing my daughter and granddaughter here,' said Terasa Martinez, Carmen's grandmother.

Then after 10 hours of traveling from Honduras, the moment they had been waiting for came. They held and hugged each other.

Carmen, 8, has a heart that is enlarging. Her mother Vivian noticed she was starting to get purple around her lips. They didn't know her condition was as serious as it is.

'Honduras doesn't have the capability of doing such a quick and easy operation like in America,' said Minor Garcia, Carmen's uncle.

One in every 100 children is born with some sort of heart birth defect, but only 10 percent of the world's population has access to specialized heart surgeons and their care.

'HeartGift has been partnering with Children's Hospital for four years. They routinely are seeing kids who have these kind of heart defects in America, and regardless of your ability to pay, Children's Hospital is going to take care of American kids. But in 90 percent of the world, they just don't have access to care,' explained Stephanie Berault, the executive director of HeartGift Louisiana.

Six children a year come out of the kindness of donations. Andoy from the Philippines is healing now at his surgeons home. Ben, from China, who we followed last May in a story, is now a thriving little boy back at home.

But even with the surprise first-time trip in the limousine her uncle drives for a living, this visit is bittersweet. Carmen's mother Vivian Garcia grew up and went to school in the New Orleans area, but had to go back to Honduras after graduation.

Now she awaits the process of U.S. citizenship.

'Oh we have a six-year waiting period. To me, this is home. This is where I grew up, and I'm just glad to be home after 20 years,' Vivian Garcia said with tears in her eyes.

Carmen will be the 21st child to have surgery through the help of HeartGift Louisiana.

To learn more or to donate to any of the chapters throughout the U.S., visit

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