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September 29, 2011
By: Geraldine Carroll

Baby Fu Bing Yang was born on a cold January day last year in the heart of the industrial Hengyang City in China’s Hunan province.  Nurses at the orphanage where Bing was living were extremely concerned about her frail health as she was less than a week old.  An Australian volunteer with International China Concern (ICC), a Christian development organization that supports sick children in China, was called in to help baby Bing .  The volunteer took Bing to her home to nourish and nurture her, and Bing progressed from a sickly 4 lbs to 7 lbs in 10 weeks.  Bing returned to the orphanage, but soon the nurses noticed that Bing’s skin had developed a worrying blue tinge.  It was suddenly evident that Bing had a serious heart condition and needed the urgent care of specialists at Shanghai Children’s Medical Center (SCMC).  Bing and her caregiver made the 15-hour train journey to Shanghai, where a group of skilled pediatric heart surgeons and U.S.-based specialists saved Bing’s life. 

The doctors at Shanghai Children’s Medical Center realized Bing’s heart disease was far worse than originally diagnosed in Hengyang City.  Bing was gravely ill with complex heart disease, missing one chamber of her heart and with an absent spleen.  

SCMC is one of the world’s premier pediatric heart centers, performing lifesaving heart surgery on more than 3,000 children each year.  Project HOPE helped develop the hospital, which opened in 1998, and has provided more than $30 million in medical equipment. HOPE continues to support SCMC through several training programs for professional health care workers in the areas of diabetes, children’s nutrition, HIV/AIDS and nurse training. 

"Bing’s complex surgery is another example of how Project HOPE's mission of training local doctors, nurses and health professionals can offer the gift of life for future generations," said Lily Hsu of Project HOPE in Shanghai. 

Bing’s story could have ended tragically were it not for the excellent international collaboration of the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center, International China Concern and the Swinfen Trust, an organization that has helped children who might not otherwise have had any hope of survival.  The Swinfen Trust was set up by Lord and Lady Swinfen in the United Kingdom, to assist poor, sick and disabled people in the developing world by establishing telemedicine links between hospital-based practitioners in the developing world and expert medical and surgical specialists who give free advice via the Internet has saved thousands.  Generous donors from a church in Australia raised tens of thousands of dollars to pay for Bing’s surgery.   

Linked into SCMC through teleconferencing Dr. Richard Jonas, Surgeon-in-Chief at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC , and Dr. Karen Rheuban, Professor of Pediatrics at University of Virginia, consulted doctors and nurses responsible for Bing's treatment. 

“Thus far I have personally cared for 15 children with congenital heart disease in the orphanages in China.  All have very, very serious health issues, some were critically ill.   Of these, I would say 8 have been referred to SCMC for surgery and all but one have survived,” said Dr. Rheuban. 

“There is no question that but for telemedicine Bing and other children might not have had access to the specialty care they so desperately needed.  They traveled thousands of miles for surgical care and are proof that miracles do happen with more than a little help from the nurses of International China Concern, those who raised the funds for their surgery, the Swinfen Trust, Project HOPE and SCMC. 

Meanwhile, another miracle was in the works for Baby Bing on the other side of the world in Hernando, Mississippi, where Julie and Danny Mann were deeply entrenched in a long adoption process to bring a frail baby Bing to her new home in the United States.  Baby Bing would become Olivia Mann, the heart of a large, warm Southern family who would dote on her every move and spend countless hours rebuilding Olivia’s strength, taking her to specialists and preparing her for the long, tough recovery process. 

“Olivia was almost 15 months old when we finally got to hold her in our arms.  I'm not sure how much she weighed before her first surgery at 8 months, but she looked terribly thin after her surgery. She was only 12 pounds when we got her at almost 15 months old,” said Julie Mann. 

Bing seems equally responsive to her Chinese and American names, adapting well to her new life, that will involve many trips to specialists as she gains strength.  Bing recently had surgery for severe reflux and will require an additional heart surgery next summer.   

“We don't even think about her being a sick baby - she's just our baby.  But the hardest part is having to watch her through all the doctors’ appointments. She is terrified of anyone with a stethoscope and it hurts me that she is so scared.  I cry every time we go to a doctor's appointment because I hurt for her.  We are traveling through the emotional journey of every new parent though.  Olivia is our first child and we were married for eight years before we became parents. 

“Had Olivia not been taken in by ICC and then taken to SCMC, it would not have been possible for her to have her first birthday party!  That is how I explain the miracle of her life!” 

Bing continues to capture the hearts of her adopted American community, and, as her mom explains, she has retained key cultural links to her birthplace. 

“Bing LOVES the local Chinese restaurant food! How funny!  And they LOVE her!  Her favorite dish is chicken lo mein.”  

World Heart Day was created in 2000 to inform people around the globe that heart disease and stroke are the world’s leading cause of death, claiming 17.1 million lives each year.

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