The Earthquake Boy, flanked by his father and doctor. The Earthquake Boy, flanked by his father and doctor.

Earthquake didn’t halt open-heart surgery

8-year-old called the 'Earthquake Boy' after doctors operate during September 19 quake

While buildings swayed and millions of people across central Mexico ran into the streets fearing for their lives on September 19, a medical team in Mexico City calmly continued performing open-heart surgery on an eight-year-old boy.


Led by the head of cardiovascular surgery at the Federico Gómez Children’s Hospital, the operation on Ángel Jesús had reached a critical point just when the earth started to move violently at 1:14pm on that day.

“I was placing a tube from the inferior vena cava to the pulmonary artery when I felt a sudden movement. I looked up and through the window I saw one of the National Medical Center buildings swaying,” Doctor Alejandro Bolio Cerdán told the newspaper Milenio.

Somebody shouted, “It’s an earthquake!” Bolio recalled, but instead of fleeing the operating room the team of 10 specialists continued steadfastly with the task at hand simply because “the patient comes first.”

“We couldn’t stop the procedure. Ángel Jesús’ life was in our hands,” Bolio explained.

It was the third time that surgeons had operated on the Querétaro boy, who was born with a congenital heart defect called pulmonary atresia and has been a patient of the hospital his whole life.

Bolio explained that the duration of the earthquake seemed “eternal” but “nobody, absolutely nobody even thought about leaving the operating room.”


“We are aware that in an emergency situation, as this case was, the most important thing is to guarantee the life of the patient, even putting it before our own safety,” he added.

Just over an hour after the massive quake struck and oblivious to the destruction it had caused, the team successfully concluded the operation. Ángel Jesús can now hope to live a more normal life.

In recognition of the added complication he — and they — had to endure, the medical staff have dubbed him “the Earthquake Boy.”

For Ángel Jesús’ father, the strong temblor brought increased anxiety to an already tense situation.

“On one hand, I was worried about my son in the surgery and on the other, I wanted to protect myself with my wife in a safe place in the hospital,” Víctor Manuel Zúñiga Gutiérrez said.

After having to evacuate the hospital while it was checked for structural damage, Zúñiga and his wife returned to wait for their son to come out of surgery. Minutes later, Dr. Bolio Cerdán appeared to tell them that the operation had been a success.

“It was the best news I’ve ever received,” Zúñiga said.

“My wife started to cry and I hugged her. That day became one of the happiest of my life and a lot of that happiness I owe to the medical staff who looked after my son, didn’t leave him alone and continued with the operation.”

Source: Milenio (sp)

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