José From El Salvador
José was referred to Healing the Children Wisconsin by the Gift of Life El Salvador. The 16-year-old had been through a lot in his life. Born with multiple heart issues including a ventricular septal defect, José had heart surgery to repair his fragile heart when he was 4 years old. It was then that he was also diagnosed with severe scoliosis. This type of surgery was not available in his country and he needed to come to the United States for treatment. José arrived in Milwaukee in August of 2017 to have surgery at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
José’s scoliosis case was further complicated by the fact that he had malformations in the bones surrounding his spine. As a result, his surgeons had to remove the two transverse processes from a vertebra before rods and screws could be placed and a fusion could be performed. Due to this complication his surgery took over eleven hours. In the end the surgery was a great success, with José immediately noticing a big improvement in his breathing.
José stayed with host parents Ellen and Tom Frens, who volunteer through the nonprofit Safe Families for Children, during his stay in Wisconsin. José was welcomed into their home and into their hearts. Ellen and Tom provided many fun new experiences for José, including the Wisconsin State Fair, a Brewers baseball game, a Marquette University soccer match, and a high school homecoming dance.
Ellen said, "He was a real trooper. We had some special times together, even under some pretty tough situations. We drew on the support and practical help from other Safe Family families when we needed to, and it was awesome to share this young man with others. We were all blessed to have José in our lives. Sometimes you accept a stranger into your lives because you want to 'be the hands and feet of Jesus.' But on more than one occasion I was reminded of Jesus telling me 'I was a stranger, and you welcomed me in.' In other words, the child was being Jesus to me.”
José returned home to his very grateful family in El Salvador in October. He was very excited to return to school and the soccer field with his friends. The Frens Family has frequent contact with both José and his mom through social media and feel that they have an open invitation and home waiting for them in El Salvador. They opened their hearts to someone in need and made a lifelong connection.
Jose with Orthopedist Dr. Tassone