Families throughout Mexico travel to the country’s capital for its world-class museums, ancient Aztec ruins, noted restaurants and hospitals. So for Elizabeth and Eduardo Torreblanca, flying 1,000 miles from their home in Cancun to deliver their firstborn in Mexico City was not unusual.
But when their baby was born with an unusual condition, the Torreblancas would have to travel much further to give her a chance at life.
Two days after Regina was born on November 20, 2010, an echocardiogram or “echo” revealed that she had hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a serious and complex congenital heart defect that results in an underdeveloped left side of the heart. The hospital in Mexico City had limited experience with HLHS and gave the Torreblancas little hope. “The doctors told us that her condition is not compatible with life,” says Elizabeth.
By Rebekah McGowan
When we first learned that our son would be born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, we were devastated. But once the shock had worn off we were desperate to talk to other families who had been through the experience. We asked our doctor about support groups, but he was less than impressed with what was available.
“They’re out there, but it’s mostly propaganda,” he said, scrolling through a Google search of HLHS communities. “Regardless of what you may read, these kids can’t run and they can’t do sports.”
And while he wasn’t impressed with what Google had to say about the future of kids with HLHS, he was impressed with what Boston Children’s Hospital’s Heart Center could do for children with the condition—and I’m so glad he was. Through his referral we went to Boston, and there we found the hope we needed. It was there that we learned that our son had a good chance of having an extraordinary quality of life under their care. We were also told that other than contact sports, our son could do anything he wanted to.
Over the years Lucas continued to thrive. And for each year he got stronger we participated in the NSTAR walk for Boston Children’s Hospital. It’s our way to say thank you to the hospital that saved him, and to help fund additional research, particularly in the areas of congenital heart defects that affect 1 in 100 babies born every year.
Kerri Dunn can always tell when her son Peter is determined to do something because when he gets deeply focused his face scrunches up and he squints one eye tightly shut, which his mother says makes him look like a cute, 2-year-old version of Popeye.
It’s a face Kerri sees a lot, because Peter is a very determined little boy. The youngest of six children, Peter is always trying to keep up with his older brothers and sisters—or “my kids” as he calls them. And, despite his smaller size, he still manages to do so—whether they’re walking, running or even climbing trees.
While his determination to keep pace with his older siblings may seem cute on the surface, it’s actually an incredible testament to Peter’s strong will. Not only is he managing to follow in their much larger footsteps, he’s doing so with only fifty percent of a working heart beating inside his chest.
Childhood friends Eileen and Annie were like most young girls who grew up in the 1980s: They played with Cabbage Patch Kids and My Little Ponies, and when Cyndi Lauper came on the radio to remind listeners that “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” they both danced and sang along like the song was written especially for them. But these two had a lot more in common than a mutual love for big hair and toy horses.
For starters, both girls were born with a serious congenital heart condition—Annie with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), Eileen with Double Inlet Left Single Ventricle (DIVLS)—that brought them to Boston Children’s Hospital’s Heart Center for treatment in 1986. While at the hospital, they shared a room, each waiting their turn to receive the Fontan Procedure, a specialized surgery that helps children who have only a single working pumping chamber in their heart.
But Annie and Eileen shared more than a room and treatment plan; they also shared a common heritage. Annie was born in Peru, but was adopted by American parents and moved to the United States as a toddler. Eileen was a native Peruvian and came to the United States exclusively for her treatment at Boston Children’s.