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ForHearts is 39! Celebrate by Helping Hearts Around the Globe

In October of 1984, the Heartbeat International Foundation came into being with the mission to provide implantable cardiovascular devices for people in need in developing countries around the world. Thirty-nine years and one name change later, our heart still beats for those hearts in need all around the world.

In pursuing the ForHearts mission, over 17,000 individuals in more than 20 countries have received life-saving cardiovascular care, so far. And it would not have been possible without the support of caring hearts, moved to action.

The History of ForHearts Worldwide

Those 17,000+ lives have been saved thanks to the passion and determination of one man, anguished that he was unable to save one life.

Dr. Federico Alfaro had just completed his cardiology residency at Baylor University and returned to his home country of Guatemala to practice. However, the young doctor’s knowledge and training could not overcome the lack of resources and access his countrymen faced.

Dr. Alfaro found himself treating a 17-year-old boy with a heart block—a serious but treatable condition. Unfortunately, the boy’s family could not afford the needed surgery, and the boy died due to the heart condition—a condition a boy in America would have received treatment for.

The loss of one young life is tragic, but Dr. Alfaro realized that this tragedy was playing out across Guatemala, as poor patients were dying due to a lack of access to medical care. He vowed to do something about it.

Dr. Alfaro reached out to his alma mater and connected with Dr. Henry D. McIntosh, former Chairman of Medicine at Baylor University, to discuss the possibilities of getting care and resources to patients in need. In their brainstorm, Dr. McIntosh proposed the idea of “gifting” used pacemakers and invited Dr. Alfaro to a stateside cardiology conference. It was the perfect avenue to bring attention to this great need from the experts in the field of heart care.

At the conference, Dr. McIntosh presented Dr. Alfaro with six used pacemakers, and a letter stating the pacemakers were gifts intended to save lives and foster understanding between the two countries.

The gift presentation also fostered the initial support for their cause, as a Rotarian attending for a pacemaker manufacturer stepped forward to donate more than 400 pacemakers. Ultimately, Rotary International pledged a $250,000 grant to grow Dr. McIntosh’s pacemaker gifting program.

In 1984, just two years after he and Dr. Alfaro attended that conference, Dr. McIntosh formally launched ForHearts Worldwide in collaboration with The Watson Clinic in Lakeland, Florida (where Dr. McIntosh practiced), Rotary International, several pacemaker manufacturers, and the American College of Cardiology.

From this collaborative effort to “gift” pacemakers to patients in need has grown a global network that stretches from our state-side staff and board of directors, device manufacturers, sponsors and donors, to the volunteers, nurses, doctors and medical facilities within the countries of greatest need. Our network has reached across the globe to support these hearts in need in 20 countries so far, with ForHearts International Heart Centers established in seven countries—Guatemala, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Philippines, Honduras, Paraguay, and Ecuador.

And to think we have come this far and grown this much in just 39 years! What will ForHearts accomplish in our next 39 years? We are tapping into our network and collective cardiovascular expertise to expand our mission and broaden the scope of heart care that we can provide to these communities in need.

How Can I Support ForHearts?

ForHearts started with one heart—the heart of a young boy lost, the heart of a young doctor moved to action. The heart of just one person can change the world. It’s these generous, giving hearts coming together that make the ForHearts mission possible.

What better way to celebrate our 39th birthday than to help us save a life?! We are using our birthday to kick off the 2023 season of giving. With #GivingTuesday (November 28) just a month away, now is the perfect time to join our mission in support of hearts in need.

When you give to ForHearts, you become part of a community of like-minded individuals with a passion for saving lives! As we embark on our next 39 years, we hope to see that community grow with us so even more lives can be saved.

Make your donation to ForHearts Worldwide in honor of our 39th birthday!