Afghan girl departs for home after heart surgery at UNC

A North Carolina nonprofit organization and a UNC Hospitals volunteer partnered to bring an 8-year-old girl with congenital heart problems to UNC for medical treatment.

Media contact: Stephanie Mahin, 919-966-2860,

Updated Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013

Maryam, an 8-year-old girl from Afghanistan, departed from Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) on Saturday, Aug. 3, on her way back home after spending six weeks in North Carolina.

She underwent heart surgery at UNC Hospitals on Tuesday, July 9, and came through it well, said her surgeon, Michael R. Mill, MD.

Dr. Mill corrected a narrowing of Maryam's aorta (a surgical procedure called resection of coarctation of the aorta) and closed a fetal blood vessel, the ductus arteriosus, that had not closed normally when Maryam was a newborn (that surgery is called division of a patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)). For more details about her surgery, see this story.

Solace for the Children, a not-for-profit foundation based in Mooresville, N.C., brought Maryam and five other Afghan children to North Carolina for a six-week program that included specialized medical care, cultural enrichment and team-building activities.

Maryam, came to N.C. Children's Hospital at UNC to receive treatment for congenital heart defects. She had her first appointment with pediatric heart doctors at UNC in early July and then had a catheter-based procedure first, before having heart surgery on July 9.

Each child lived with a host family during their stay in the United States. The N.C. Children's Hospital paired Maryam with 6-year-old Hannah Saye of Pinehurst, who acted as Maryam's "Heart Sister." Hannah had open heart surgery days after birth to repair a congenital heart abnormality.

Maryam's care was paid for with donations to a fund created by the generosity of Chapel Hill residents Rita and Eric Bigham, long-time UNC Hospitals volunteers.

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