From Buenos Aires to Boston for pediatric stroke care

Francisco visits with Dr. Rivkin for treatment of a pediatric stroke.

Twice a year, Osvaldo and Sol board a plane in Buenos Aires, Argentina. For a week or more, they leave behind their home, their friends, their jobs — and, sometimes, their two daughters, Ines and Clara. But what waits for them, a continent away, is worth it. In Boston, they say, they have found expert care for their son, Francisco.

“Francisco was perfectly fine when he was born,” says Sol. “But two days later, we were having trouble waking him up.” Although initially doctors assured the family that his behavior was normal, they quickly transferred him to the neonatal intensive care unit when he began having difficulty breathing. Tests soon revealed that the infant had experienced a stroke. “We were not aware that was a possibility” says Osvaldo.

It isn't easy to bring the whole family to Boston, but this Argentinian family says it's worth it for helping their son recover from a stroke.

A depth of experience

While they were pleased with Francisco’s care in Argentina, his parents consulted a friend, an alum of Harvard Medical School who suggested they travel to the U.S. with Francisco to seek out extra advice on treatment options. He recommended Boston Children’s Hospital. “We got online and checked pediatric hospital rankings,” remembers Osvaldo “Boston Children’s was first.”

After reaching out to Boston Children’s International Health Services, the family had an appointment with co-directors Dr. Michael Rivkin and Dr. Cameron Trenor and the rest of the team at hospital’s Stroke and Cerebrovascular Center. “The first day we met Dr. Trenor, he told us that Francisco was the second child he had seen that same morning with a stroke in that particular artery,” says Osvaldo. “We were very impressed by the depth of experience the doctors have.”

Francisco receives care for a stroke in Boston.

Homework, and progress

Because the stroke occurred in the left side of Francisco’s brain, the right side of his body was affected. A cast on his left arm encourages him to rely on his weaker right arm, which gets plenty of exercise during intensive physical and occupational therapy, both in Argentina and in Boston. “Annette Correia and Hannah McQuillan are wonderful,” says Osvaldo. “Beyond being very generous with their schedules while we are in Boston, they also give Francisco ‘homework’ so he can continue the skills he’s learned with them at Boston Children’s when we return home.”

The family also takes advantage of their regular trips to Boston by visiting Dr. David Fogelman in the hospital’s Orthopedic Center and Dr. Jason Montagos and Dr. Anne Fulton in the hospital’s Department of Ophthalmology. “When we’re here, everyone always knows where we are and what appointment we’re at,” Osvaldo laughs. “We appreciate that everything is coordinated.”

A childhood stroke doesn't stop Francisco from enjoying life or playing with his sisters.

‘It’s worth it’

Despite his early challenges, Francisco, now 4 years old, is “a very happy boy with a lot of goodwill,” says his father. That sense of playfulness is on full display during a recent appointment with Dr. Rivkin. Before the visit, he lingers in the waiting area with Ines and Clara, entranced by the colorful light-up wall on display there. “It can be difficult to figure out the logistics to bring the whole family for these trips,” admits Osvaldo as he watches them “Right now, the girls are missing school, but it’s worth it.” Sol adds, “We know that a good rehabilitation can change our son’s quality of life. That’s why we are very grateful to Dr. Rivkin and Annette for all their dedication. The improvements in Fran are remarkable.”

As Dr. Rivkin completes his checkup, the little boy scampers out of the exam room, giggling as he throws himself on one of his sisters and hugs her. “You’re too heavy!” she protests as they both tumble to the floor. But she’s smiling as he clings to her, still laughing.

Learn more about the Stroke and Cerebrovascular Center.