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Heart Patient Thanks Doctor Who Saved Him 21 Years Ago

Congenital Heart 1

Alfredo Trento, MD, listened to Raul Figueroa's heartbeat. Trento performed open-heart surgery on Figueroa more than 20 years ago.

Raul Figueroa flew from Guatemala City to Los Angeles with one simple mission: to thank the physician who gave him a second chance at life.

Figueroa was only 3 months old when he first came to California more than two decades ago. With help from nonprofit Healing the Children and a volunteer family in Santa Clarita, Figueroa came to Los Angeles for open-heart surgery. He landed at Cedars-Sinai, where Alfredo Trento, MD, was able to repair the hole in his heart.

Congenital Heart 2

Figueroa's story was featured in a Los Angeles newspaper article on Christmas Day 1994.

Earlier this month, Figueroa returned to the U.S. for the first time since his surgery. Accompanied by his mother, father, brother and cousin, Figueroa arrived at Cedars-Sinai.

"I am nervous but I feel happiness too," Figueroa said about meeting Trento. "I am so happy for the opportunity to meet my doctor and say thank you."

After waiting quietly, the Figueroa family was introduced to Trento. Figueroa's parents, who speak little English, stood, smiled and with tears in their eyes, handed Trento a gift.

Touched by the gesture, Trento immediately asked to see Figueroa's scar. Then Trento listened to Figueroa's heartbeat and inquired about his health to make sure that Raul was having regular check-ups with a cardiologist back home.

"It's moments like these that really put into perspective the important work we do," said Trento. "At this organization, we see so many patients, save so many lives, touch so many hearts. It's nice to be able to circle back sometimes and truly see the impact."

At the end of the visit, Figueroa said he received the best gift of all: the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream.

"I feel so good because I completed one of my dreams with my family, to say thank you for my miracle," said Figueroa, who said he began learning English just a few months ago specifically so he could say "thank you" to Trento. "He says that I am OK. I think it was the perfect moment."