My name is Jackie Tillman and I am a “heart mom!”
My daughter Tiana had a heart transplant at 6 months old and watching her fight for her life for 4 months while in heart failure was the worst experience of my life. There is always a silver lining to any experience and even though I didn’t believe that during her fight I do now.
My husband and I have been so blessed to be able to work with different organizations and meet so many people because of Tiana’s experience. ICHF is one of the organizations I would of probably never known about if it wasn’t for Tiana! I was able to join ICHF in Maceio, Brazil this past July. It’s one of those things that you know is going to be amazing but you don’t really understand how amazing until you experience it.
First of all the volunteers and staff that run ICHF are amazing… I have never met so many people so dedicated and so selfless. I was in Maceio for a week, and in that week I was able to meet all the staff, children waiting for surgery and their families. I was able to interact with the children and talk to some of the parent (with an interpreter of course) and what amazed me the most was that even though I was in a whole different country I saw the same love, worry, and hope on these mothers faces. I knew how they felt, there was a connection that only “heart moms” have, no matter the race, religion, country, and financial status! It was amazing to see the difference between the hospital there and the hospital we go to here! When I saw the parents and their children sitting in no air conditioned rooms before and after surgery I was really shocked and humbled by it all. It was winter when I was there and it was 90 outside, I couldn’t imagine their summer and sitting in these rooms!! If you were hot you had to bring your own fan!!
When I began to think about Tiana and what she had to go through to live I realized that she wouldn’t have lived if she was born in Brazil. We have such great opportunity here and the possibilities are endless here in the US. So I truly believe in the mission of ICHF because they are teaching so many countries how to help their children, and they are saving so many lives in this process. The hours these medical staff and volunteers spend traveling, in the hospitals and in surgery are more then I could imagine and the passion and love the doctors and volunteers have for everyone blows my mind.
I was forever changed by my experience in Brazil and I plan on returning in November to revisit the hospital and families. We live in the greatest country on earth and I’m very proud to see the impact ICHF is making on other countries with the help, knowledge and love they share.