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. …
In fall of 2014, I was a senior, excited about finishing high school in New Hampshire and heading off to college. But I could never have guessed what the year would bring. I was an avid lacrosse player and competing in my fifth game of a tournament when I started to notice I was having trouble seeing out of my left eye. Soon, my hand felt weird and I couldn’t grip the stick properly. As I sat on the sidelines, onlookers recommended I be taken to a local hospital. …
Juan was looking forward to having his son, Fredy, 14, finally come home to live with him. The teenager had been living under the care of his grandmother since he was a toddler.
But on that long-awaited homecoming day, Juan was quickly jarred from feeling great joy to grave concern.
“When I saw his face, one side looked very different from the other and his lip was swollen,” says Juan. “He admitted right away that his face had been hurting.”
Juan remembered that the last time he’d seen his son — more than one year ago — Fredy’s face had looked slightly different then too. But whatever was happening, the situation had clearly become much worse since then. Something was undeniably very, very wrong. …
Six-year-old Madelyn knows why she has to see a special team of doctors twice a year: she had brain surgery as a baby. But she doesn’t yet understand the full weight of the story.
“She knows there was a problem with something in her brain, and she had to go to Boston for special care, where the doctors made it all better,” says her mother, Julie. “She knows the team still checks in on her to make sure she stays healthy.”
As she gets older, Madelyn will be able to comprehend more and more. Someday she’ll realize not only just how lucky she is to be alive, but the incredible ordeal her parents went through when she was just 5 months old.
A mysterious illness
It was Valentine’s Day, 2011. Six-month-old Madelyn was sick — VERY sick. Her worried parents, Julie and Matt, took her to her pediatrician, who thought she was suffering a virus because she did not have a fever.
“We took her home, but this virus wasn’t going away,” says Julie. “Eventually it got so bad we had to take her to the Southcoast Hospital emergency room (ER). She wouldn’t stop vomiting and couldn’t keep anything down, not even medicine.”
In the ER, Madelyn was so limp “she felt like a rag doll in my arms,” Julie says. That tipped off the doctor on call, Dr. Sara McSweeney-Ryan, to order an MRI.
“Dr. McSweeney-Ryan is the first doctor I credit with saving Madelyn’s life,” says Julie.
On MRI, it was clear that there was a problem in Madelyn’s brain, and her life was in danger. McSweeney-Ryan knew exactly where Madelyn needed to be.
“We thought, it’s already 1 a.m., maybe we can stay the night,” says Julie. “But they ordered an ambulance to take us to Boston as quickly as possible. There was no time to lose.”