In 2008, the NPDF learned from a DEA agent about the plight of a five-year Ecuadorian boy named Denny “Hugito” Benavides who was a malnourished living in poverty in Guayaquil. Hugito suffered from a rare case of scoliosis and other medical conditions that included having a heart on the opposite side of his body and one lung. NPDF officials lobbied and convinced the U.S. State Department to issue Hugito an emergency U.S. medical visa where he underwent an extensive medical evaluation at the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.
Almost immediately, the media made Hugito a huge celebrity that captured the hearts of Americans and their generous donations were made to Hugito’s a medical fund. Unfortunately, the surgeons recommended that the surgery be postponed until he became a teenager.
On November 19, 2018, NPDF Executive Director Joseph Occhipinti and NPDF Delegate to Ecuador Jose Zhanay were present at the Mount Sinai Hospital in Cuenca, Ecuador where Hugito underwent a successful seven-hour complex operation by five surgeons.
As show of appreciation, NPDF officials were commended for their actions by the Mayor of Cuenca and the Commanding Officer of the Ecuadorian National Police. Special thanks to our Ecuadorian attorney’s Dr. Fernando Vargas, Dr. Magali Campoverde, Hugito’s donors, the Cuenca Yanuncay Rotary Club, La Fundación Fe & Salud, Mount Sinai Hospital in Cuenca, its surgeons and medical staff for their generosity and support for a teenager who will now live a normal life.