Bairo Pite Clinic

Maria Soares

Baby Maria has captured the hearts of Australians following a series of articles published in major Australian newspapers this week. Thanks to the support of the Australian public, this week she will travel the Sydney Childrens Hospital for surgery. The Bairo Pite Clinic is accepting donations to assist with the costs of surgery. Unfornatually the case of Maria is not an isolated occurance, and there are many other patients awaiting life-saving surgery in Australia. Therefore, donations gained above the costs of Maria’s surgery will be used to assist other Timorese patients gain surgery in Australia. For updates on Maria's condition, please see the clinic's latest news. To make a donation to help Maria or another Timorese patient in need, please see the donations page.

To view a photo gallery of Maria and other patients in need of life-saving surgery, click here.


Media Coverage

The stories re-printed below represent the views of the author only and are not official medical diagnoses condoned by BPC or any other health organisation.

April 3 2006 | April 4 2006

A cry for help from Maria
Reported by Lindsay Murdoch in Dili
Sydney Morning Herald April 3, 2006

Photo by Glenn Campbell

MARIA, two months old, will die because doctors in East Timor cannot perform an operation on her that would be routine in many Australian hospitals. She was born with a hole in the wall of her tiny heart that has made it difficult for her to breathe. Her 2.6-kilogram body is not gaining weight, and a doctor is keeping her alive with drugs. "I am appealing for help to get Maria and her mother to Australia so that surgeons can save the baby's life," said Dan Murphy, an American doctor working in a clinic in a poor suburb of Dili.

"It's impossible for us to perform the operation to close the hole in East Timor. We don't have any specialists or the technology in this country. But in Australia she would be saved and able to leave hospital after about a week as long as everything went smoothly."

Dili's poor regard Dr Murphy as a living saint. For eight years the tall, bearded man with a soft voice has run a small clinic for those unable to receive treatment anywhere else. "I've managed to perform miracles here," he said. "I've managed to save people who were going to die but I'm afraid Maria will not be one of them."

The baby is not gaining weight, so would be unable to survive the drugs she needs to keep her alive, he said. "But I'm sure I could control the kid well enough so she could travel abroad for the operation."

Asked how long Maria would live without the operation, Dr Murphy shrugged. Nobody knows. There could be complications at any moment.

Dr Murphy says his clinic, which treats up to 500 patients a day, wants a lifeline to a big Western hospital. "When we get one of these cases I have to appeal for help outside the country. It would be great if I can just pick up the telephone and call somebody."

Dr Murphy has arranged for Maria's mother, Lorencia Soares, 32, to stay with the baby in a small room with a stretcher at the clinic.

Ms Soares knows her baby is very ill but does not accept the possibility she will die.

"I trust Dr Dan," she said. "He won't let my baby die."

Her husband, Vidal Dos Santos, 35, also refuses to leave the baby to sell bananas he collects in the local market, his only source of income. "I have no money," he said. "But that is all right if Maria can have a normal life. That's the only thing that matters to us."

A flood of goodwill saves Maria's life
Reported by Lindsay Murdoch in Dili
Sydney Morning Herald April 4, 2006

Photo by Glenn Campbell

OFFERS have flooded in to help save the life of Maria Soares, the tiny Timorese baby with a hole in the wall of her heart. After the Herald revealed two-month-old Maria's plight yesterday, the head of cardiology at Sydney Children's Hospital at Randwick, Owen Jones, offered to perform the operation to close the hole.

Maria Soares feeding

"I've set the ball in motion - there are various administrative things that need to be done but it looks very promising that it is going to happen," Professor Jones said.

Many offers were made after yesterday's report that Maria was doomed to die because doctors in East Timor could not perform the operation that would be routine in many Australian hospitals. One of the first offers came from Kerryn Phelps, the former federal president of the Australian Medical Association. "I'll see what I can do - I have contacts through the health system," Professor Phelps told the Herald before contacting Professor Jones.

The executive director of the children's hospital, Les White, said Maria would be flown from East Timor to Sydney as soon as visas could be processed, with the help of the Rotary-driven humanitarian project ROMAC - Reaching Overseas with Medical Aid for Children. Within hours of the story being published, the Dili clinic run by Maria's doctor, Dan Murphy, received offers to pay for the airfares of Maria and her mother, Lorencia, to and from Australia. Offers came to the Herald from around Australia, including a man and a woman who each pledged $3000. Others offered accommodation for Maria and her mother in Australia.

Dr Murphy is keeping Maria alive with drugs. When told of the offer to perform the surgery, he said: "That's fantastic news."

Maria, weighing only 2.6 kilograms, is having difficulty breathing and is not gaining weight. But Dr Murphy hopes Maria and her mother can travel to Sydney within a week after their passports and visas are processed.

Professor White said: "This is a potentially curative operation. We have the skills and expertise here at the hospital and we already work closely with ROMAC, so it's natural we'd like to assist. Maria's case has highlighted how the expertise at Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick, can be called upon to meet the needs for interstate and overseas children."

A volunteer at Dr Murphy's Bario Pite Clinic, Virginia Dawson, who was co-ordinating the donations, said: "The response has been brilliant."


Bairo Pite Clinic
Tel: +670 3324118

© 2006 Bairo Pite Clinic