The Goodhearts with Maria - reunited after thirty years.

The Goodhearts with Maria – reunited after thirty years – knowing she is now healthy.

When Sandy and Bill Goodheart volunteered to host a young couple and their severely ill one-year old daughter in 1988, they had no idea they would be life-savers. Nor did they ever dream that nearly 30 years later they would be re-united with that sweet young lady! The year was 1988. A young family from Gusave, Mexico, had come to Phoenix under the auspices of Rotary International’s Gift of Life Project hoping to receive treatment for their youngest child, Maria Jose. Maria Jose had been born with tetralogy of Fallot, a serious heart defect which threatened her life. The sweet little girl desperately needed surgical intervention. St. Joseph’s Medical Center and Hospital graciously provided her life-saving procedure! The Goodheart’s became aware of the Ojeda Salazar Family through Rotary. Without hesitation, they lovingly threw themselves into the role of host family, becoming surrogates and advocates for the these scared, young parents. Sandy and Bill unequivocally treated everyone in the Mexican family as if they were indeed Goodheart family members. Thankfully, Maria did wonderfully well and was taken home to Mexico having undergone corrective open heart surgery. She continued to improve, so much so that she did not require any further intervention. Decades passed. Technology had not yet brought our two countries closer together. There was intermittent communication, largely letters and phone calls, over the years between the two families. Their love and unending interests in each other remained unimpeded despite life’s many challenges. Chief among the challenges for Maria Jose and her family was the tragic loss of her father in a traffic accident.  She lost her father so early in life that she doesn’t have a first hand memory of him, but feels his presence in her daily life, nevertheless. Maria matured into a wonderful, strong, bright student and young woman. She did well in school and began studies in the field of nutrition. She enrolled in secondary graduate studies. Still, Maria Jose wondered about her long term health and she had questions about having a family of her own. So Maria and her brother, Hugo, contacted Gift of Life AZ in the hope of securing a new comprehensive cardiac evaluation. This past fall, Maria Jose flew from Mexico to Phoenix with Hugo where they were met by Rotarians from Gift of Life. The contingent then drove to Tucson where Maria underwent testing and eventually received an “all clear” from her medical team. Maria then returned to Phoenix to meet the Goodheart’s and join them for dinner at their home in The Terraces. After nearly 30 years, Sandy and Bill Goodheart renewed their relationship with Maria Jose. They hugged and hugged. The last time they had held each other Maria Jose was an infant! For The Goodheart’s this reunion brought to life a love story. They had helped save the life of a baby in 1988. That same baby grew up and went on to fully appreciate every opportunity she had been given and made the most of each circumstance! Maria Jose was living the Gift of Life right there in the Goodheart family room!

Gift of Life representatives, John Abbs, (back row right) and Keli Jo Hause (left of Joahn Abbs) with Maria, her brother, Hugo and the Goodhearts.

Gift of Life representatives, John Abbs, (back row right) and Keli Jo Hause (left of John Abbs) with Maria, her brother, Hugo, and the Goodhearts experience an amazing reunion.


  • Published: 8 months ago on December 30, 2016
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  • Last Modified: February 15, 2017 @ 8:14 am
  • Filed Under: News

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