The Aquino family is from the Dominican Republic and they came to RMHC of South Florida for the first time in 2016. Their story begins shortly after Evelyn Urbaez and Gustavo Aquino became parents to twins Matthew and Gael on February 5, 2016. When the boys were a month old, she noticed something strange in Matthew’s behavior. Evelyn acted quickly and took her baby to the pediatrician’s office where it was discovered that he had dextrocardia, which is when the heart is located on the right side of the chest. It was then discovered that Gael had Double-Outlet Left Ventricle (DOLV). The doctors didn’t provide many options for treatment and the prognosis was not good. The cost of surgeries, tests and necessary medical equipment was more than they could afford. Feeling helpless, Evelyn turned to Facebook and shared her story. The story quickly caught the attention of many, and one person suggested they reach out to the International Kids Foundation (IKF) which could help connect her with a doctor in Miami, FL who specialize in pediatric cardiology. Soon after beginning the application and awaiting approval from IKF, Matthew unfortunately passed away one day before the approval notice. Heartbroken, it meant Gael needed to get his surgery urgently and they were quickly transferred to Jackson Memorial Hospital where the family was then referred to RMHC of South Florida. Scared and anxious, they arrived at a place where they didn’t know anyone. Luckily, they found comfort at RMHC. Evelyn and Gustavo were steps away from the hospital where Gael was being treated and they were able to focus on his recovery rather than figuring out where to live in an unknown place. Gael had a successful surgery and the family was able to go back home after a month. Since then Gael has had one follow-up appointment per year to monitor his heart and check if he’s ready for one more important surgery. RMHC has been his “home-away-from-home” since then and he’s been welcomed back with open arms as he fights for his full recovery.
UPDATE: Gael underwent his final surgery in December 2019 and it was successful. Together with his brother and mom, he safely returned home to the Dominican Republic after his recovery on January 8th 2020.
Story by: Nicole Betancourt