Aspiring medical students raise money for 6-year-old's heart surgery

Stacey Sager Image
Thursday, March 23, 2017
Aspiring medical students raise money for 6-year-old's heart surgery on Long Island
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NEW YORK -- Aspiring doctors who are only in high school are already being credited with saving a life.

The students on Long Island raised money for a six-year-old boy to travel to the United States from overseas to get heart surgery.

6-year-old Erblin Sllamniku has learned plenty in the past week, mostly about the kindness of others.

Erblin and his dad traveled nearly 5,000 miles from Kosovo.

Aspiring medical students from St. Anthony's High School raised $5,000 for the journey.

It most likely saved his life.

"I was terrified and scared while I was in Kosovo, and I was always scared that he will die, because no help from the doctors, no doctors who can help him," said Fadil Sllamniku, Erblin's father, through a translator.

"He had a hole between his aorta and his pulmonary arteries, it was roughly the size of a straw," said Dr. Sean Levchuck, St. Francis Pediatric Cardiology Chairman.

Dr. Levchuck performed a minimally invasive procedure on Erblin which was also made possible through help from "The Gift of Life," a humanitarian group.

What's also wonderful is that five of these high school students who want a career in medicine actually got to watch the surgery, and feel the joy from the outcome.

"This is like, truly a day, I will never, ever forget," said Hannah Smith, a St. Anthony's senior.

"Right before the surgery we were able to meet him, and he was adorable, still is. He has so much more energy now," said Genesis Ovalle, a St. Anthony's senior.

In fact just ask Erblin! He can't wait to play soccer again.

"I was tired, now I feel good again," Erblin said through a translator.

The students learned how Dr. Levchuck fixed Erblin's congenital heart defect in a procedure that lasted only about 35 minutes.

"Through the catheter I feed something that looks like a champagne cork. It's all done through x-ray," Dr. Levchuck said.

Already, he's as good as new. In fact, Eyewitness News asked what he's liked the most about being here.

"I like the food!" Erblin said.

Erblin and his dad will stay in the states until April 8th and then head back to Kosovo.

It was heart that needed mending, but it was always filled with love.