St. Jude Medical Pacemakers & ICDs

News Item

Touching Story

September 14, 2008

Happy Birthday Anais Rodriguez

12 December 2007 at the Santo Tomás Hospital in Panamá Anais Rodriguez entered this world, kicking, crying and thoroughly annoyed at the bright lights illuminating the giants around her. More lights were shined in her eyes and she was prodded, turned, poked and harassed. A cold “shiny thing” touched her skin and sent shivers. Tubes left the ears of one of the giants and connected to the shiny thing. It was a strange new world.

The sudden burst of energy after months of darkness and rest drained Anais and soon she slept awaking some time later in the arms of a smiling woman with tears in her eyes. A smiling young man leaned over to get a closer look. She could feel their love in every touch, every smile and every tear. Food! She found food and ate eagerly, and then drifted off again.

Awaking hours later in a different area with softer lights, but surrounded once again by giants Anais found herself connected to wires that beeped slowly across a screen. Looks of concern mixed with strange sounds coming from the giants. Too much excitement and once again she drifted off.

The attending giant (doctor) discovered that little Anais had complete AV Block, a block in the heart’s electrical stimulation that stimulates each heart beat. She needed a bicameral pacemaker that would independently stimulate the top and bottom of her heart, normalizing her heart beat and giving her life.

Tears accompanied awareness as the doctor realized how poor Anais’s parents were. They could never afford the cost of a pacemaker, critically necessary to save the life on this baby girl. Silently he prayed and sent Anais to the Children’s Hospital where he hoped for a miracle.

One hospital was the same as another for Anais. Everything was new. She did not like the bright lights or the continuously hovering giants, but she loved waking in her mother’s arms to eat and fall asleep again.

The news, however, was not good. Children’s Hospital did not have a pacemaker suitable for a two day old child. One of the doctors did have knowledge of Heartbeat International of Panamá, a program sponsored and operated by Banco de Marcapasos Clubes Rotarios de Panama that provides pacemakers and medical care free to the poor of Panamá and other areas of the world. HBI of Panamá had never implanted a pacemaker in a child of this size. However this was a case of life and death, and all of the doctors and directors of the hospital were willing to try, to try anything.

Meanwhile Anais slept more and more and more. HBI Panamá Medical Director, Alberto Arrocha, MD selected the tiniest pacemaker available. Many years had passed since Dr. Arrocha had implanted a pacemaker in a baby. He was worried. This would be a very difficult surgery. Anais’s eyes flicked open – “geeze, more lights” – and drifted back to sleep. She could hardly stay awake anymore. Mom and Dad held each other and prayed for a miracle.

Dr. Carlos Alba was the only doctor at Children’s Hospital experienced in implanting pacemakers in children the size of Anais. The next time Anais awoke the lights were really bright and the omnipresent giants looked over her, all wearing masks. She drifted off quickly, and Dr. Alba went to work, moving gently, knowing a mistake of two millimeters would endanger Anais’s short, fragile life.

When Anais awoke again she felt more energized and definitely hungry. “Where is Mom?!” “Ah, there she is.” If it were not for her ears Anais was sure Mom’s smile would have wrapped all the way around her head. She felt a little pain in her chest, but otherwise felt great! For some reason Dad’s eyes streamed with tears.

Two days later with her Mom and Dad, Anais left the Children’s Hospital and entered a strange but exciting new world. Wide eyed and hungry, Anais rested in her Mom’s arms for the ride to her new home, and a life time of learning, growing and experiences.

Although a new experience for HBI of Panamá and the Banco de Marcapasos Clubes Rotarios de Panama they expressed their feelings, “we are all very happy because one of our pacemakers has saved the life of a baby Panamanian girl.” An implantation to a 2-day baby is a first in the history of HBI of Panama.

Frankly, Anais could care less – everywhere was an adventure, a new sight, a new sound - life.


Pacemaker Club is a proud sponsor of Heartbeat Internaional, a non-profit charity dedicated to making poor hearts beat better.

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