Eight months after life-saving heart surgery in Australia, Timorese sports teacher Bete Naben is returning to Melbourne to thank donors and show off her newfound health at a fun run.
The mother of three was born with Ventricular Septal Defect or “hole in the heart”. She was too sick to teach, and feared not seeing her children grow up. East Timor Hearts Fund came to her aid last November, flying her to Australia for complex surgery at University Hospital Geelong.
Now well, and able to return to work and play soccer and volleyball, Bete said she wanted to do Run Melbourne to inspire future patients, and to raise awareness about East Timor Hearts Fund’s “amazing” work.
“For me, it will be a great challenge and achievement, because when I was so sick I had given up hope,” Bete said.
“I never thought that I would ever be healthy again, let alone running five kilometres.”
East Timor Hearts Fund CEO Stuart Thomson said Bete was living proof of the value of the fund’s work, which was made possible by donors and medical, community and corporate partners across Australia.
“To see the burden of critical heart disease lifted from Bete and her family is very humbling,” Mr Thomson said.
“It is not just Bete and her family who benefit – as a teacher Bete is shaping the next generation of young Timorese and making an invaluable contribution to her community and country.”
Mr Thomson said an independent social return on investment study had found that every dollar invested in the organisation’s program returned nine dollars in health and social benefits.
“By changing one life, we can help build a better future for our neighbours in Timor-Leste,” he said.
Mr Thomson said he hoped supporters who had donated to help fund surgery for Bete and patients like her would turn out in force to meet her at Run Melbourne on 30 July.
As well as her first ever fun run, Bete said she was keen to try AFL football while in Melbourne. “I've never played AFL but would love to try. I think it will be a great experience and maybe something that I can take back to Timor and teach my kids.”