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Saving Baby Jose: 20 years have past since Edmontonians rallied to help child from Panama

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It’s an incredible story about survival and the willingness of Edmontonians to help people in need.

In Part 1 of our three-part series “Saving Baby Jose,” we go back to the 1990s, when we were first introduced to a baby with Down syndrome in need of life-saving surgery.

Jose Moran Robles was born in Panama in 1996 with a life-threatening medical condition.

“He had a defect that was called atrial ventricular septal defect,” lead surgeon Dr. Ivan Rebeyka explained. “Basically, the central portion the heart didn’t come together.”

With two holes in his heart and surgery not available in Panama, the clock was winding down for Jose to get the treatment he needed.

Desperate, the Robles family turned their attention up north — far north — to Edmonton, Alta., and an organization that had helped another family near them.

“We received a call from the Robles family… I think he was about one year old at the time, asking if there was anyway that we could help them bring their family, bring Jose, to Canada,” said Bev Ray, who worked as a family support advocate at the time.

Without hesitation, the organization was on board. It was then Ray’s task to drum up support and get the family here.

“There was not one place I ever called that turned down or was not interested in being involved,” Ray said.

Word spread quickly about baby Jose. The community was quick to step in for flight costs, housing, clothing and the surgery itself.

After two days of surgeries, the operation was a success.

The odds were against baby Jose, but the generosity of Edmontonians overwhelmed them.

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