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decade of saving hearts!

Sandrine's Story

I was born in Kigali, Kacyiru, on May 28, 1996. 

Initial visits to the doctor failed to detect the congenital heart disease I was suffering from, until one day my family and I came across a new pediatric cardiologist (Dr. Hategeka) who told us that my fear did not correspond to the social skills of children at the age of 4. Thanks to all the symptoms observed, the pediatric cardiologist confirmed that I did indeed have a heart problem, and that it was the cause of all the symptoms. Unfortunately, the complexity of the cardiopathy required consultation with another cardiologist specializing in this type of disease, Dr. Abel Kagame. 

Dr. Kagame confirmed Dr. Hategeka’s diagnosis. However, Dr. Kagame also told us that Rwanda did not yet have the infrastructure to support a heart condition of such complexity. He gave us two options. On the one hand, he specified the need for financial resources to travel to Europe for specialized care. On the other hand, if financial resources were lacking, I would have to be placed on a waiting list filled with similar cases. The children on this list were also waiting for charitable gestures from organizations to finance their operations. At least 95% of Rwandan families with a child suffering from heart disease are forced to put their children on the waiting list, for lack of means. It should be noted that the waiting times on this list did not allow all the children to survive.

After much deliberation, my family finally came up with a solution that involved going through my father’s employer, Heineken, who took charge of the whole process. This deliberation took 2 weeks, after which they confirmed that they had agreed to cover all the costs associated with my case. 

Thanks to this employer, we were able to travel to Kenya, where the pediatric cardiology infrastructure made it possible to have heart surgery. The operation and recovery process lasted 3 weeks.

What has stayed with me from my experience is that the resources that were accessible in our case are not available to many other parents who have a child diagnosed with such heart disease. There are many parents who have neither the means to access local pediatric cardiologists, nor the means to pay for an international transfer to have their children treated. For many families, such a diagnosis is often a fatal announcement for their child.

After several years as a child survivor of congenital heart disease, I asked myself…

“What can I do for other Rwandan children, who are also diagnosed with this disease today?"

The creation of Vivo Cuore

I’m fully aware that many families in Rwanda are facing the same challenge today. So I wanted to create an organization that would give hope to parents who have a child with heart disease. My vision for Vivo Cuore is for all Rwandan families with a child with heart disease to feel the solidarity of an entire community thinking of their child’s well-being. Above all, I wanted to give back from one child with heart disease to another.

For 10 years now, Vivo Cuore has been working with international partners dedicated to saving the lives of children with heart disease. The most inspiring thing for me is to be able to support Rwandan pediatric cardiologists, who go beyond the expectations of their medical title to save as many Rwandan children as possible. Through this collaboration, Vivo Cuore covers the cost of air travel for the children and their escorts. They then travel to a country where one of our partners welcomes the child into an international medical program, and where the child receives heart surgery.

Vivo Cuore’s mission is simple:
To send Rwandan children to one of our partners who offers heart surgery. It is through this simplicity that we are able to make a concrete contribution to saving children with heart disease.

Vivo Cuore and music

I believe that art has the power to transform. Through music, I wanted to give back what I believe is the most beautiful thing I have to offer. I wanted the message of hope behind Vivo Cuore to come through music.

At the age of 8, I started learning to play the piano, and ever since, I’ve always said that in a way, music has also given me another life. Through the years I’ve spent at the piano, I’ve come to understand that in art we can push back the limits of human capacity, something that isn’t easy in a world without art. Music always pushes me to go further, to deepen my vision of life, but above all, it reminds me to always hold on to the thread of the universe that unites us all. Music has taught me a different way of feeling humanity.

I wanted the same inspiration for Vivo Cuore.