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Polish Boy Returns Home After Surgery

April 28, 1985

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ A 6-year-old Polish boy who came to the United States for life-saving heart surgery left Saturday for Gdansk with a ″lifetime of memories″ after four months in America.

Piotr Sternik and his mother, Halina Sternik, boarded their flight at San Francisco International Airport happy to return home but reluctant to leave the friends and lifestyle they enjoyed in California, their host said.

Before they left, Mrs. Sternik thanked the anonymous heart donor who made Piotr’s operation possible and the Americans who donated money to pay for the boy’s medical bills.

″We’re leaving your country with a lifetime of memories,″ Mrs. Sternik said in a statement Saturday. ″Most of all, memories of over 1,000 kind and considerate Americans who helped to save Piotr’s life. We will always remember the family who gave Piotr the gift of life by donating their dying child’s heart.″

The boy entered Stanford Medical Center on Dec. 28 with a congential heart defect that caused much of his blood to bypass his lungs. Doctors said he would die without corrective surgery, which was unavailable in his homeland.

On Jan. 25, Stanford surgeons grafted the donated heart valve onto Piotr’s defective heart and patched a hole between the chambers.

More than 1,000 donors gave a total of $45,000 toward the boy’s medical costs after Stanford asked for payment in advance for the $25,000 operation. The remaining $20,000 might be used to pay for the child’s future medical emergencies, said Peter Wasowski, with whom the Sterniks stayed.

Wasowski said surgeons have warned that Piotr might require more surgery.

″His heart is repaired but not reconstructed into a normal heart,″ he said. ″The next months and next couple of years will tell us exactly what will happen. We just have to wait and see what develops.″

Piotr took a list of instructions for Polish doctors, a supply of medication and a suitcase full of new toys to Gdansk, where his father, Michal Sternik, has been waiting.

Sternik, fired from his job in the Gdansk shipyards in 1981 after supporting the Solidarity union movement, drives a taxi.

″They definitely left with mixed emotions,″ Wasowski said.

″(Piotr) became a regular fan of ‘Sesame Street’ and Bugs Bunny. After his first trip to Disneyland and Marine World, he was obviously overwhelmed. He was sorry he will now not be able to enjoy these things,″ he added.

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