Stories about: cardiac surgery

The marathon of life: Catching up with Greek army lieutenant, 31 years post heart surgery

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Ted Sarafis ran the Athens Marathon 30 years after life-saving surgery to close a hole in his heart

Well into his teenage years, Greek army lieutenant Thodoris (Ted) Sarafis thought the scar on his chest was the result of an unfortunate tumble he took as a child.

“My parents told me I had an accident, and that’s where I got my scar,” he says. Sarafis didn’t learn he’d had heart surgery as a toddler until his medical clearance exam for the Greek national karate team at age 16.

Ted took the news in stride, but last year, curiosity got the better of him, and he pressed his father for more information.

That’s when he found out exactly where he’d had his life-saving surgery (the Boston Children’s Hospital Heart Center) and who performed that procedure (Dr. Aldo Casteneda, who now lives and works in Guatemala). Ted then learned more about the details of his diagnosis and the extraordinary measures his parents took in 1984 to save his life.

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How to save a life: Teachers band together to revive girl who had heart attack at school

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Long Island middle school teacher Carole Going texts her student Jessica every day. Even just a simple exchange of “How are you feeling today?” and “Good, thanks!” can calm Going’s nerves. “I didn’t know her very well before the event happened,” she says. “We only had eight classes by that point.”

A month and a half ago, Jessica was in science class when she suffered a sudden cardiac arrest.

Going says it was her co-teacher, Ann Marie Carlson, who first noticed Jessica appeared weak: “She started to ask ‘Are you OK?’” but couldn’t even get all the words out before Jessica fell back on the floor.”

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Brave Hearts: How one Mom faces her daughter’s congenital heart disease

Avery and sunsetFinding out your child has congenital heart disease (CHD) can send you on an emotional roller coaster. “You can’t help but think, is this my fault? What did I do wrong?” says Jessica Nigrelli, whose daughter Avery was diagnosed with CHD when she was 16 months old.

When Avery was a baby, she had an on-again, off-again heart murmur that was checked every three months. When the murmur persisted at 16 months, her primary care doctor recommended she see a cardiologist from Boston Children’s Hospital. At the Heart Center’s outpatient clinic in Waltham, Dr. Susan Saleeb discovered Avery’s atrial septal defect (ASD). An ASD is a hole in the wall that separates the heart’s upper two chambers, the left and right atria.

The diagnosis shocked Jessica and spurred a great deal of anxiety. “Avery appeared healthy. Looking at her, you would never know anything was wrong,” Jessica says. The word ‘defect’ just sets off a million bells and alarms in your head. Processing that took some time.”

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Solving Addison’s puzzle: Uncovering a congenital heart defect

Addison-on-bike-trail1Addison is a smart, sweet and caring child who brings a smile to everyone she meets. She is known for her hugs and frequently doles them out to anyone and everyone. She loves elephants—and her heart is elephant-sized! However, until last fall, Addison’s heart was causing mysterious and persistent medical issues that prevented her from doing all the things she loves. Unbeknownst to my husband and me, Addison was born with a congenital heart defect.

As a baby, Addison thrived but always seemed to have something going on. She had issues with reflux and did not enjoy tummy time or sleeping on her back. Waking several times during the night is not uncommon for a baby, but Addison seemed to be waking in pain every hour or two. When she was 9 months old, a GI specialist diagnosed her with reflux, and as she grew into a toddler, Addison developed significant respiratory issues, including a croupy cough. Now when she woke up during the night, it was with severe coughing fits.

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