Stories about: Dr. Sitaram Emani

‘I’m the calm before the storm.’

Sylvia(Katherine C. Cohen/Boston Children’s Hospital)

Sylvia Noel Fagan

Administrative Associate, Cardiac Surgery

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I’ve been here for 18 years — first in Cardiology and now in Cardiac Surgery. I’m the administrative assistant for Drs. Emani and Kaza, but I do a little of everything. With eight surgeons and four assistants, we all help each other out.

In person, I call some of the doctors by their first names — Ram, A.K., Francis … I like that. We have a great relationship. When I have a problem, I feel like I can really talk to them. In this department, we all care for each other.

I sit at the front desk, so I’m often the first person families meet. When they come in for a consult with a surgeon, of course they’re nervous. I try to calm them down and help out by distracting the kids. Sometimes it’s too much for a child to hear how a surgeon is going to operate, so I bring them out to color or play on my computer.

I always try to put myself in our families’ position. I had a mother call the other day, and the person she was looking for wasn’t available. I could tell she needed someone to talk to, so I stayed on the phone with her for a half hour, past the time I usually leave to go home. If I were calling and the person I needed wasn’t available, I would want someone to hear me out.

It’s a stressful time, so I always try to be calm. I’m the calm before the storm.

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care-team-logoCaring for patients is a true team effort. Care Team highlights the dedication of the people throughout Boston Children’s who do their part to comfort and support patient families each and every day.

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Vinny “The Conqueror” battles HLHS

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My husband Mike and I will never forget the feeling of excitement we had the morning we were finding out if we were having a boy or a girl. It seemed like we had to wait an eternity, wondering whether we’d hear the words “it’s a boy” or “it’s a girl.”

Finally, the time came — and our nurse let us know we were expecting a BOY! After screeching from excitement and smiling from ear to ear, we quickly realized something was wrong.

Our doctor had noticed the left side of our son’s heart was noticeably smaller than the right, a sign that he had a condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, or HLHS. With HLHS, the left side of the heart is underdeveloped and unable to properly pump blood.

That day, our world immediately changed. Our minds were racing in every direction, and it seemed like we were literally living in a nightmare. We had plans of shopping for baby clothes and celebrating over a nice lunch, and instead we were meeting with doctors all afternoon and uncontrollably crying. It was this night we named our son “Vincent” (Vinny for short), which means “to conquer.”  We needed a strong name for a boy who needed to overcome so much.

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3-D printed heart makes a rare keepsake for this Alabama family

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Dr. Jason Ayres with his son Patrick, Dr. Sitaram Emani, and Patrick’s 3-D printed heart

A clinical trial to outline the benefits of using 3-D printed hearts for surgery was recently funded by the nonprofit organization Matthew’s Hearts of Hope. Read more about this on our sister blog, Vector.

Jason Ayres, a family doctor in Alabama, was speechless as he held his adopted son’s heart in his hands — well, a replica of his son’s heart, an exact replica, 3-D printed before the three-year-old boy had lifesaving open-heart surgery.

Patrick Ayres was one of the Boston Children’s Hospital’s first beneficiaries of 3-D printing, which in 2015 helped open a new frontier in pediatric cardiac surgery.

Patrick was born with numerous cardiac problems; in addition to double outlet right ventricle (DORV) and a complete atrioventricular canal defect, his heart lay backwards in his chest. DORV is a complex congenital defect in which the blood pumped from the heart to the body lacks adequate oxygen. Complete atrioventricular canal defect is a combination of issues related to holes in the heart and/or ineffective heart valves.

“There were a lot of things wrong with his heart,” says Jason. “We knew early on that he’d need complex surgery to survive.”

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Molly’s story: Care for a rare condition close to home

Curly-haired, bright-eyed Molly Leary pushes a plastic baby stroller filled with a pile of books and one baby doll. She spends a sunny afternoon on the lawn reading, singing ”Itsy Bitsy Spider” and playing her purple guitar. She sits down to read with her mom Kerry and then pops up into what feels like a never-ending spin. “Dizzy?” Kerry asks. “Nope!” says Molly with a big grin. Her love of life is infectious.

Watching this unstoppable five-year-old twirl around in circles, you’d never know that she’s quite mixed up on the inside. Molly was born with heterotaxy, a rare congenital defect that results in various organs forming on the opposite side of the body. She spent the first eight months of her life at Boston Children’s Hospital, as detailed in the below timeline.

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