Posted on 16 November, 2023

When Amelika* was 12 years old, she noticed that something was wrong. She would lose her breath walking from the living room to her bedroom, and she was constantly feeling weak and lethargic. By the time she was 14 years old, she was diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease (RHD) by an Open Heart International team during a screening trip to Tonga, where Amelika lives.

Amelika’s heart was functioning at 36% and would continue to deteriorate. Without surgery, Amelika would die.

Sadly, 1 in 10 children in Tonga develop RHD due to poor living conditions and overcrowding. A lack of resources means government hospitals are unable to treat the disease – instead they prescribe medication to reduce complications – but those with RHD still suffer and still experience far shorter life expectancy.

But the cost of travelling to Australia for treatment exceeds $60,000 per patient – far beyond what most people can afford.

“I want to think about life instead of thinking about when I might die,” Amelika said. “I want to be able to run and do sports like a normal girl.”

On her fourteenth birthday, Amelika made a wish. She wished for a new heart, that she could play with her friends, that she would have the energy to help around home, and that her life would be full and long.

In September, Amelika’s wish came true. She received free, life-saving surgery thanks to an Open Heart International volunteer surgical team.

The surgeons replaced Amelika’s faulty aortic valve with an Edwards Lifescience Inspiris Resillia Valve. This high-tech solution will expand as Amelika grows, meaning decades of healthy, stress-free living.

Amelika with the Edwards Lifescience Inspiris Resillia Valve that replaced her faulty aortic valve

“My prayer or wish on my birthday was fulfilled to the letter,” Amelika said.

How amazing is this! This is why Open Heart International exists, and why your support is so vital – lives are not only being changed, they are being saved. Together, we can make more children’s wishes can come true!

Without Open Heart International, Amelika would not have received this life-saving surgery. But as joyous as Amelika’s story is, there are still so many children still wishing for a miracle. Your support today is vital to help ensure we can continue to heal hearts and save lives this Christmas.

This Christmas, Save a Life and Heal a Heart by donating at

* Name changed for child privacy purposes

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