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. …
It began like any typical late summer day. Lilith Borden and her mom, Victoria, had stopped by a farm near their Concord, New Hampshire, home where the 3-year-old could enjoy an ice cream cone — and burn off some energy playing in a nearby field.
“We were running through the grass, when Lilith suddenly grabbed the back of her neck and screamed that she had a boo-boo,” Victoria remembers. Within seconds, she seemed to have trouble moving. As Victoria called for help, the little girl collapsed to the ground. …
Seven-year-old Jacob Downing has a list of caregivers as long as his “different” right arm.
On top on the list is a be-spectacled, bow-tie-wearing neurologist. Dr. Michael Rivkin is co-director of the Boston Children’s Hospital Stroke and Cerebrovascular Center and the first person Jacob remembers seeing after the emergency surgery he underwent following a stroke.
Jacob doesn’t remember the surgery to clear the blood clot that caused his stroke. “Dr. [Darren] Orbach worked a miracle for him,” says Jacob’s mother Nichole. Orbach is the neurointerventionalist who performed the endovascular thrombectomy procedure to break up the blood clot that caused his stroke.
“Like a lot of doctors at Boston Children’s, Dr. Rivkin talks directly to Jacob. Jacob knows he is trying to help him, and it shows,” says his father Justin.
And Jacob has needed a lot of help in the aftermath of his stroke. Initially, he seemed to quickly regain some of his lost skills. …
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.”