Author: Justine Varieur

Can’t keep a good man down (even if he’s a 3-year-old who’s undergone 3 surgeries)

The quality of life for most adults after undergoing three surgeries in less than three years is greatly impacted. However, a nearly 3-year-old boy from Providence, R.I., is thriving in spite of receiving three very complex heart surgeries to correct for his hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS).

“Daniel has fared incredibly well throughout his multiple procedures—better than most undergoing such complex operations—which shows his strength and tenacity,” says Christopher Baird, MD, director of the Congenital Heart Valve Program at Boston Children’s Hospital.

This is truly impressive because he has been struggling with a heart defect since birth. In fact, he was diagnosed with HLHS at 36 hours of life in a newborn nursery in Providence. Baird performed Daniel’s first open heart surgery at Boston Children’s when he was 4 days old. This procedure, the Sano modification of the Norwood procedure, involves the placement of a conduit between the pulmonary artery and the right ventricle, which serves to make the right ventricle the main pumping chamber for blood flow to the body.

As an energetic, talkative toddler, Daniel Lareau is already mastering the skills of multitasking:

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Daughter of pro hockey player faces off against serious heart condition in Boston

Professional hockey players are known for physical toughness and durable spirit. As one example, the left-winger of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Nick Foligno along his wife Janelle, recently took their fight off the ice to ensure their infant daughter received the best heart surgery care in the country.


Milana’s heart valve condition was not discovered in utero, so she was born seemingly healthy to her loving parents. The first sign that Milana was not as perfect as she looked was 24 hours after birth when she failed the mandatory pulse oximetry test, which measures the oxygen level in the blood. The hospital followed up with an echocardiogram that revealed a severe mitral valve problem. Nick and Janelle were informed that their daughter would need surgery at some point in her young life.

The family was discharged in order for Milana to grow, but she struggled and a week later, she was readmitted to their local hospital. They managed her condition with medicines, trying to prolong her surgery until she got just a little bigger. Unfortunately, she wasn’t getting better and wasn’t eating enough to be healthy.

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How a mother’s battle with truncus arteriosus informed her daughter’s

Lauren and Kaylee

As a cardiac patient at Boston Children’s for the past 29 years, Lauren Hoey had learned to thrive in spite of her condition, but she never knew that she would be learning these coping skills in order to teach her daughter, Kaylee, the same skills and attitude.

When Lauren was just 18 hours old, she underwent her first heart surgery for truncus arteriosus, a rare congenital heart disease (CHD) that means only a single vessel arises from the heart. Normally, there are two separate vessels coming out of the heart. In 1983—the year Lauren was born—she stayed at Boston Children’s for more than one month. Most children who’ve had surgery for this condition recover and grow normally, although they are at risk for future arrhythmias, leaky valves and other heart complications. Also, like Lauren, these patients may require additional procedures before they reach adulthood.

Over the years, Lauren had three more cardiac surgeries and back surgery for scoliosis, and was fitted for two hearing aids. Twenty-five percent of babies born with congenital heart defects develop scoliosis. Yet, she didn’t allow these challenges to hold her back—succeeding as a competitive jazz and ballet dancer. She was an active member of the dance team during all four years at Westfield State College in Massachusetts.

“While I knew I couldn’t run up and down a soccer field, I found other sports in which I could participate and still enjoy,” Lauren says. “From the time I was a child, I had to be acutely aware of what I was capable of doing, but I didn’t allow the limitations to hold me back.”

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A good Melody: mending the wounded heart of a dragon-slayer

George and Elisabeth

According to Christian legend, St. George saved the mystical town of Silene—along with a lovely princess—by slaying a dragon that plagued the city. As his namesake, William St. George Hunter (“George”), a 1-year-old heart patient at Boston Children’s Hospital, has shown a similar type of courage and spirit.

George’s battle against his heart condition began before he was born. At 25 weeks of pregnancy, his mother, Elisabeth Hunter, flew to Boston Children’s from South Carolina to undergo a fetal intervention with Wayne Tworetzky, MD, co-director of the Advanced Fetal Care Center and director of fetal cardiac imaging. George was born at Brigham & Women’s and went home with his family after several weeks of observation at Boston Children’s. But the Hunter family returned when George was five weeks old for the physicians to temporarily insert a balloon catheter in his aortic valve, a procedure called balloon valvuloplasty that seeks to dilate a narrowed valve.

“His condition improved after the balloon procedure,” says Elisabeth, “but we knew the treatment was unsustainable.”

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