Chapel Hill resident Rita Bigham was able to accomplish her goal of helping sick Afghan children this week.
Three years ago, Bigham began talking with the head of cardiology at UNC Hospitals about bringing children from Afghanistan to the U.S. for heart procedures.
And earlier this month, she got to meet 8-year-old Maryam, the first child she’s brought to UNC Hospitals.
Bigham raised $4,900 to fly Maryam to the U.S. through Solace for the Children, a nonprofit organization that provides medical care for children from war-torn countries. Bigham and her husband then set up a fund to pay for her treatment at UNC Hospitals.
“I really thought it was a wonderful thing to do because the medical health (care) they can get in Afghanistan is so very poor,” Bigham said.
Since retiring from her job as an elementary school teacher after 28 years, Bigham has been volunteering at the N.C. Children’s Hospital with her therapy dog Pippin.
“Maryam had an absolute fit over (Pippin),” Bigham said. “She really opened up after that.”
Elman Frantz, one of Maryam’s doctors at UNC, said Maryam was born with an extra blood vessel connecting her aorta and her main lung artery. Frantz said all babies have this before birth, but it usually closes quickly after.
Frantz oversaw Maryam’s procedure to close the blood vessel last week.