Health Commissioner Applauds Dominican Girl Recovering from Life-Saving Surgery for Helping WTC Victims

7 Year Old Lorena Urbaez Donates Toys Contributed After Her Surgery to Correct Heart Defect

Albany, September 21, 2001 – State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H. today praised a seven–year–old girl from the Dominican Republic who is recovering from life–saving surgery at New York Presbyterian Hospital, for her generous contribution to children of Port Authority employees lost in the World Trade Center attack.

"Lorena Urbaez is an example of the courage, kindness and selflessness that is so evident as New Yorkers join together to recover from the horror of September 11," Governor Pataki said. "Rather than thinking about herself and her own serious medical condition, this brave young woman was concerned for the children of Port Authority employees who were victims of the attack. As our hearts had gone out to her, Lorena's heart went out to other children who are suffering because of this senseless tragedy and she is doing literally everything she can to help."

"Thanks to Governor Pataki's efforts, Lorena Urbaez was welcomed into our great State and received the surgery she needed to save her life. Now she is trying to make a difference in the lives of other children who are suffering an incomprehensible loss," Dr. Novello said. "Lorena's generosity brings us great comfort and reinforces our belief in the innate goodness of human beings."

Lorena Urbaez underwent surgery last month to repair a potentially fatal heart condition after the Governor directed State officials to work with the hospital to arrange for Lorena to be brought to New York for surgery. The Governor had been told about Lorena by Father Brian Jordan–a colleague of New York Fire Department chaplain Father Mychal Judge, who died ministering to victims of the World Trade Center collapse. Lorena had received dozens of toys from New Yorkers when her story was reported in the news media. When she heard about the tragedy, she asked to donate her toys to children who lost family members in the attack.

Lorena Urbaez was born with a congenital heart defect known as Tetralogy of Fallot, which gets progressively worse with age. When Lorena's condition was brought to the attention of Father Jordan, he began working to bring her to the United States to obtain life–saving surgery. Father Jordan sought assistance from the Governor's office, which then coordinated arrangements with officials from New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Tetralogy of Fallot, a congenital heart condition, usually worsens over time and, untreated, often leads to death before the age of 20. Persons with the condition have a hole between the two larger chambers of the heart and a severe narrowing of the right side of the heart leading to the lungs. This defect leads to a reduced blood flow to the lungs.

Accompanied by her mother, Cecelia Batista Perez, Lorena arrived in New York City from Barahona, a small town in the Dominican Republic, on August 9 and underwent surgery on August 16. The operation was successful and Lorena is making an excellent recovery.

9/21/01–101 OPA