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Transplant surgeons save children’s lives in Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Clutching a tiny Bible, Gilda Velasquez leans over her son as he falls asleep with the help of a powerful sedative and a catchy cartoon jingle playing on a hand-held TV.

“Remember, you’re a Christian, you’re a Christian,” she repeats amid her tears to Yin Carlos as orderlies wheel the 6-year-old into the operating room where he will get a new liver.

For any family touched by liver disease, an organ transplant can be a second chance at life. But the procedure is practically a miracle in Venezuela, where an economic crisis makes even needles and acetaminophen scarce.

Yin is benefiting from the efforts of a U.S.-based surgeon and his counterpart in Caracas who have helped save dozens of Venezuelan children with failing livers. The doctors now hope to replicate their success in such a challenging environment as Venezuela and assist hundreds of boys and girls from other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean where pediatric transplants are unavailable.

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