Hundreds Rally In Vain Around Stricken Child

BY TOM VARTABEDIAN

BOSTON—Armenian donors throughout Greater Boston helped raised thousands of dollars recently to aid a stricken child from Yerevan, only to see their efforts go for naught.

Levon Alumyan, a 5-month-old child, needed immediate surgery after being diagnosed with a rare disease called Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome while in the latter stages of delivery.

In a week’s time, approximately $27,000 was raised among local philanthropists as the family sought medical attention for their son at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Leading the drive was Dro Kanayan of North Andover, a cousin, who waged a tireless campaign to get the amount raised, joined by the child’s aunt and uncle from Boston, Tigran and Anahit Alexsanyan.

Through networking, telephone calls and e-mail dispatches, funds began rolling in to save the child’s life. The campaign rapidly stretched across the country.

“We were able to organize a Trust Fund in Levon’s name and people were most generous when they heard the cause,” said Kanayan, a grandson to revolutionary hero General Dro Kanayan. “The hospital gave us a quote of $36,330 but agreed to perform the surgery within the range of what was being collected.”

The figure was substantially less than other estimates received, including one from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for $155,000-$185,000.

The child comes from strong family roots. His father Hayk is a criminal attorney while his mother Armenuhi is employed as a judge. Levon was their only child.

Among those stepping to the forefront was Dr. Gerald Marx, a pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Hospital, who was instrumental in providing advice to the Alumyan family and worked with the hospital to negotiate an affordable rate to have the surgery performed in Boston.

Another was Jeffrey Bilezkian, who was able to convince the hospital to accept Levon early while fund-raising efforts continued.

The story takes a winding twist which begins with a flight to America in November after a visa was granted from the United States Embassy. However, conditions grew worse for the infant and he was rushed to a hospital in Paris prior to boarding a connecting flight to Boston.

“Levon is safe and in a place where he can get good, necessary treatment with money collected to perform the surgery,” his family reported at the time. “It is a great accomplishment. We could only dream to see that kind of response.”

A cardiac catheterization was performed on the child and no obstacles were found to prevent the surgery.

Following a 3-hour procedure, the surgery was successful and Levon was reported in good condition. After five days on a life support system, the child began breathing on his own. He left ICU and was transferred to a regular unit with discharge only days away.

He was due to arrive back in Yerevan Dec. 8 when complications developed. Levon remained in the Paris hospital for a second surgery to drain fluid which had gathered around his heart and lungs.

It wasn’t successful. The child’s condition deteriorated and he succumbed Dec. 20.

“After two surgeries and a lingering battle with the illness, his little heart couldn’t take any more pain,” said Kanayan. “Many people were following his destiny and were saddened by this shocking news. He bravely fought for his life and had all the support we could give him.”

Kanayan acknowledged the kindness and support received from benefactors all over, from both Armenian and non-Armenian sectors, in what was raised over seven days.

Among the donors was a youngster of Spanish descent living in California who had heard about little Levon’s plight and took $5 out of his bank to help another little child.

“It truly showed the kind souls that people still have,” he brought out. “There were no major donor recognitions. People gave what they could afford to try and help save a little person. It was more than any of us could have expected.”

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