Fixing Ronald’s heart

11259687_10150581688584999_5830558428567303930_nThe most selfless causes are those that become personal missions.

Three Georgia Regents University physician assistant students showed the world just what selflessness means when they took it upon themselves to save the life a 15-year-old Ugandan boy named Ronald.

Ronald was born with a life-threatening condition known as congenital atrial septal defect (ASD). To truly understand the dangers of ASD, however, one must first understand the heart.

The normal human heart is separated into four chambers – the right and left atria, and the right and left ventricles, respectively. In a healthy heart, a dividing wall known as the interatrial septum prevents blood from the left atria from entering the right atria directly, forcing the blood to instead circulate through the entire heart. Ronald’s heart, however, has a small hole in its interatrial septum. As a result, the right side of his heart works much harder than necessary to compensate, resulting in an abnormal, visible heartbeat.

Sufferers of ASD often have extreme difficulty with physical exertion. In Ronald’s case, he is often unable to make the trip to school, more than a mile’s walk from his village. He is also unable to play soccer, a sport he follows religiously.

In the United States, ASD is most often treated before it becomes a threat to its victim’s health. Unfortunately, Ronald, whose family lives nine hours away from the nearest cardiologist, is in life-threatening danger.

Shelby Boggus, James Torrell, and Lauren Beatty, three GRU PA students who visited Kabale, Uganda, for their clinical rotation, met Ronald after a social worker brought him to a clinic for a checkup.

After meeting Ronald, and later meeting his family, Boggus, Torrel, and Beatty, along with their colleague Alana D’Onofrio, set up a GoFundMe campaign to pay the $30,000 surgery needed to save the boy’s life. As of June 8, the campaign had raised more than $15,000 dollars. The remaining amount was donated on June 9 by the Daniels family in honor and memory of their father, Ted Daniels.

Scheduled in July, surgeons from America, Canada, India, and South Africa will attempt to fix Ronald’s ASD at the Uganda Heart Institute.

With luck, Ronald may soon have the chance to lead a normal life.

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Written by
Nick Garrett

Nick Garrett is a communications coordinator in the Division of Communications & Marketing at Augusta University. Contact him at 706-446-4802 or

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1 comment
  • What a lovely story! I’m happy to be part of an institution that has people who give of themselves like these people. I will be praying for Ronald and for the ones involved in his care. I hope to read a follow-up story about this!

Written by Nick Garrett

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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