- Associated Press - Friday, May 23, 2014

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Two teenagers from Uganda are recovering after receiving life-saving heart surgery in Jacksonville.

Hospital officials said the girls - Precious Muhawenimana, 15, and Sharifa Kaudha, who turns 15 on Sunday - suffered from a congenital heart defect that causes a low level of oxygen in the blood. The condition is known as tetralogy of Fallot, which results in a low level of oxygen. It’s sometimes called “blue baby” syndrome.

Both girls underwent surgery this week at Wolfson Children’s Hospital.

Children born in the United States with the condition typically undergo surgery during the first few months of life.

“Most kids with this condition (who don’t get the condition surgically repaired) don’t live past 12,” Cindy Bonsall, director of the Children’s Heart Project, told the Florida Times-Union (http://bit.ly/1niWCyD ). “They’ve been living on borrowed time.”

Stephanie Lacey, a pediatric cardiologist with Baptist Health said the girls are “recovering nicely.”

The Children’s Heart Project paid for the trip for the girls, their mothers, a translator and a pediatric nurse from Uganda.

The newspaper reported the medical expenses of the surgeries are covered by Patrons of the Hearts, a partnership between the UF Pediatric Cardiovascular Center at Jacksonville and Wolfson Children’s Hospital. UF and Wolfson donate the cost of inpatient hospitalization and physician services, while Patrons of the Hearts covers the supplies and incidentals for each child.

The Children’s Heart Project has brought more than 1,000 to the United States for heart surgery since 1997 - with 14 taking place in Jacksonville.

“The older you are, the higher risk you are,” Lacey said. “But our surgeons are OK with the riskier patients. We decided we were going to take a look at the patients who have been passed over. With this surgery they can really have normal lives.”

Once the girls recover, they’ll visit Disney World, a trip sponsored by Dreams Come True. They are scheduled to fly home to Uganda June 25 and begin living a normal life.

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Information from: The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, http://www.jacksonville.com