Bosnian teen recovering from surgery in Tulsa

Friday, May 24th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

We've been following a young Bosnian girl who came to Tulsa for a lifesaving open-heart surgery.

Southcrest Hospital donated its facilities, and the surgical staff donated its skills so the teenager could live a normal life. News on Six medical reporter Tami Marler has an update on Alisa's progress.

Alisa Brezac was born with four holes in her heart. In the US, the surgery to patch the birth defect is somewhat routine. In Alisa's homeland, already under equipped hospitals were badly damaged by war. Many of the doctors who could perform heart surgery fled to other countries. She faced a brief, difficult life that would likely end in congestive heart failure, and she didn't even know it. Hospital Staff: "This is for you." Alisa knows how to show appreciation for balloons, flowers and goodies. Alisa: “Oh, thank you. Thank you very much." But she hasn't found the words to thank Southcrest Hospital for the greatest gift she'll ever receive. Juli: It means life, because there's like no way I could ever say thank you for giving me a life." Alisa: "I don't have word for that. I don't know. Thank you."

Alisa says she was never frightened of having open-heart surgery. She looked forward to a better quality of life, no longer having to worry about the effects of her condition. Alisa: "In winter, I am cold. Always I am cold in winter. And sometimes I gets tired soon, and what she means is she gets tired very easily." But Alisa's condition was much more serious than doctors in Sarajevo had led her to believe. Juli: "Some of them told her that it might get better eventually, that the hole might just close by itself." "But then when she came here the doctor told her that eventually she'd probably die, because the hole would get bigger and bigger."

One hole was nearly an inch in diameter, Dr. Richard Ranne said she probably wouldn't live past her 30s, and her life would never be normal without the lifesaving surgery. Lejla Brezac, Alisa's mother. Juli: "There is nothing bigger than this, to give a life to someone. And these will be people that I will never forget." And the staff at Southcrest will likely never forget the girl they helped to save.

Alisa came to Tulsa through a program called "Samaritan's Purse", founded by evangelist Franklin Graham. Surgeon Richard Ranne says Alisa can expect a normal life with no further heart problems.