Brave teen's desperate battle with heart disease

Nick McCallum
Esterlita Goncalves dreams of becoming a teacher. Photo: 7News

A desperately ill East Timorese teenager is being flown to Melbourne for life-saving surgery.

Victorian doctors will donate their time and expertise to give 16-year-old Esterlita Goncalves a chance to fulfill her dream of becoming a teacher.

In this seaside, chaotic shantytown near Dili, heart patient Esterlita stands out.

"I can't breathe. I feel hot. I can't eat," said Esterlita.

Her leaky heart valve has deteriorated so badly that she has to spend most of her days in a tiny room which she shares with her sisters.

"I feel pain. I'm sick. I can't go to school," Esterlita explained.

The operation to save Esterlita is routine in Australia, but it can't be done here.

"Without some kind of intervention, she doesn't have much time left," said Dr Dan Murphy from the Dili Medical Centre.

Next month Esterlita will hopefully fly to Melbourne's Monash Medical centre for life saving surgery where doctors like Andrew Cochrane will donate their services.

Esterlita is part of a medical crisis so close to home for Australians.

Because of the antiquated medical facilities and services here in East Timor, Dr Murphy says tragically there are hundreds of teenagers with potentially fatal heart conditions like Esterlita.

"I've got an entire book full of cases, I get one or two done," said Dr Murphy.

When Esterlita returns from Melbourne she'll be a new person and continue to chase her dream of becoming a teacher.

"She will have a good heart and come back here to continue her studies," said her father Carlito Martins.

For more information, visit the East Timor Hearts Fund website.