PARAMUS, N.J. -- A "Gift of Life" child visited the Paramus Rotary Club meeting on Thursday, April 7.
The Rotary's "Gift of Life" program began in 1974. Since then some 10,000 children from more than 36 countries have received cardiovascular life-saving operations in the U.S. Children with heart defects are referred by physicians or participating groups in their home country and come to the U.S.
Doctors and hospitals receive a nominal fee of $6,000. After cases are approved for surgery by attending physicians, they're assigned to a local Rotary Club. They provide additional funds for medical care, like prescriptions, and host the child and a parent.
The Paramus Rotary Club has sponsored and hosted over 130 children. The very special guests at the club's Thursday meeting were father and daughter Raul and Lyka Ocampo, from the Philippines. Lyka just recently received her operation and is on the road to recovery. Rotarian Jennifer Padolina is hosting the Ocampos.
The meeting's guest speaker was Mr. Michael Weitzman, who presented "The Three Amigos of Mental Health Disorder." Weitzman uses his powerful words, personal story, props and humor, in the hopes of getting rid of the stigma associated with mental illness.
The First Amigo is someone who doesn't have a mental illness. These sorts don't get it, have no empathy, and may be ignorant and unhelpful to people that do have mental illness. The Second Amigo is someone who has mental illness but has not come out of the closet yet in order to get help. They're afraid and ashamed to tell anyone or get help -- and they're also involved with stigma.
The Third Amigo is someone like Weitzman, who has had a mental health disorder. People who have or once had such disorders are working hard and try hard to not stigmatize themselves as well.
Weitzman spoke about his personal journey, having suffered and survived having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He suffered for almost 40 years before beginning treatment. Parts of his message included that getting better is possible, mental illness is not uncommon and it's not your fault.
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