On September 10th 2019, The Hoboken Rotary Club Members and Hosts Greg Visconti & Nancy Morrison, greeted its next Gift Of Life Recipient Mitchell Cerillo and her Mother, Maria Salvacion Cerillo. Upon their arrival at Newark Airport upon arrival from The Philippines. via San Francisco the group headed to the Host home and enjoyed a traditional Philippine dinner provided by Christine Bridgelal.
The Gift of Life program was originally established to help save the lives of Children in need of life or death surgery.  Its success has been immeasurable and has now has been expanded to include adults.  
 
Mitchell (pronounces Mit-shell) & her Mother, Maria Salvacion ( who prefers to be called Mari-sa) live about 11 hours outside of Manila  in Naga,  Naga has a population of about 196,000 and was settled in the 1700's by Spain.
 
There stories on the medical system in The Philippines, simply will break your heart.  Mitchell was born with diseased valves   The disease had prevented her from attending school and she was home schooled by her devoted Mother, Maria Salvacion.
 
Upon an initial visit to a medical mission being conducted in The Philippines,  in 2000, Mitchell was accepted into the Gift Of Life program and she underwent the original valve repair surgery in 2001 at the age of 16.  The extensive damage to her heart valves later required the installation of a Boston Scientific pacemaker in 2017, which has kept her alive.
 
Since the 2001 and  2017 procedures, her valves have been leaking and Mitchell's Surgeons and physicians have implored her family to have the valves replaced as a matter of life and death.  Her Mother Maria Salvacion, had explained that the procedure would cost approximately $30,000 USA, which the family cannot afford.  She has explained that while her family can afford food and housing, medical coverage is limited in The Philippines and insurance is not affordable. 
 
With a tear in her eye, Maria explained to me that In an effort to save her daughter's life,  she made the  long trip to a Mitchell's Philippine Cardiologist home to inquire about the details of the surgery and it was then that their Philippine Cardiologist told her that The Rotary Gift Of Life program was again accepting patients to sponsor.
 
Since  the original surgery was performed at Deborah Heart & Lung in Southern NJ.  Her American Cardiologist Dr Mariano Brizzio was able to  meet Mitchell while in The Philippines on a Medical Mission earlier this year.  He will personally be performing her valve replacement at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood NJ.
 
After hours of testing on September 12th at Valley Hospital, Dr. Brizzio and his staff completed the evaluation of the scans, tests and blood work  and have Cleared Mitchell for her surgery on Monday September 16th at 7:30am,
 
Mitchell and her Mom are very quiet and humble people.  They have comfortably settled into the Host Home of Greg and Nancy.  They have had the opportunity to see some of NJ's Gold Coast and Jersey Shore alike. There door is always open for a friendly visit or to drop off a meal or snack for our Guests( they have no allergies).    The Hosts would like to especially thank Rotarians David, Christine and Jennifer, as well as their spouses and  guests for their extra effort in welcoming Mitchell and  Maria.
 
We encourage you to visit them at Valley Hospital once Mitchell is out of ICU, hopefully by Wednesday. the 18th.  You can contact Greg Visconti at 201.275.9258  or greg@gvisconti.com for an update or call Valley Hospital in Ridgewood to find out if she is able to have visitors.