The Gift Of Life From St. Francis

Valon Syla stands with his father, along with Santa Claus and St. Francis staff members
Valon Syla stands with his father, along with Santa Claus and St. Francis staff members

St. Francis Hospital of Roslyn has a long tradition of performing charitable deeds for young people from around the world, giving them medical attention that they might not receive in their home countries.

This past Christmas season was no different, as the hospital gave the gift of life to young Valon Syla, a native of Kosovo in the Balkans.

When 5-year-old Syla arrived in the United States last month, he didn’t even have a coat. Now he has a new jacket and more importantly, a new lease on his health. The youngster was diagnosed with a hole in his heart when he was born in Kosovo, but doctors there didn’t have the technology to repair it.

However, thanks to humanitarian efforts by Gift of Life Inc. he was brought to the U.S., where he received a life-saving procedure at St. Francis Hospital.

Using a minimally invasive, catheter-based device, Sean Levchuck, MD, was able to repair the hole between the two upper chambers of Valon’s heart caused by a congenital condition known as Atrial Septal Defect or ASD. After undergoing the procedure in mid-December, Valon was out of the hospital in just a day and on the road to recovery.

“To see a little boy stay overnight and be able to run and play the very next day is just amazing,” said Levchuck. “If it wasn’t for this procedure, Valon would grow up without the quality of life most kids take for granted.”

Levchuck donated his services to perform the state-of-the-art procedure. The Nicholas J. Vizza Fund, which supports Gift of Life children, subsidized the other medical expenses for Valon’s treatment.

Syla’s father Xhemajl, who does construction work in Kosovo, looks forward to his son being able to play with his older brother without becoming pale and tired now that his heart has been repaired.

“I just want him to be able to play with the other kids in our village.” That, he said, is his greatest wish for the new year.


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