Stories about: ECMO

Danny’s journey to a biventricular heart

Danny, born with heterotaxy syndrome, peeks out from a tree.The first hint that something wasn’t quite right with Danny Sanchez-Garcia’s heart came at his mom’s six-month prenatal visit.

“There was a little blip on the ultrasound, but then it was gone on the next one, so they didn’t think it was anything and I didn’t worry any more about it,” says Danny’s mom, Cynthia.

Cynthia was overjoyed when Danny was born at her local hospital seeming perfectly healthy. But as the hospital staff monitored Danny overnight, they noticed his oxygen level was lower than normal and decided to run more tests. His doctors believed the tests pointed to a congenital heart defect called tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia.

“They transported him overnight to Boston Children’s Hospital,” says Cynthia. “I felt like I was on a roller coaster, especially as a first-time mom.”

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Francesca’s story: Beating a heart tumor

Francesca, who was diagnosed with a cardiac tumor before she was born, with herAlthough her parents were warned she might not breathe when she was born, the moment Francesca Durkos came into this world, she let out a gutsy cry.

“It was music to our ears,” says her mom.

Michelle Carino Durkos was 40 weeks pregnant when she learned there was a tumor attached to her unborn daughter’s heart — a tumor so large that doctors near her home in Pensacola, Florida, were unsure if the baby would live.

“It was a shock, because at 20 weeks everything was normal,” says Michelle. “We had a wonderful ultrasound; we saw all four chambers.”

Yet, call it a mother’s intuition, Michelle knew something was wrong.

“The whole pregnancy I had this strange feeling. I didn’t want to upset her, so I’d sleep sitting up, as if she was fragile — as if she was in distress.”

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Trusting your instincts: One mom’s story

Serena with Julia and Sebastian

Serena Hadsell has no medical training. But when her 4-year-old daughter Julia got sick a few days after Christmas in 2013, something else kicked in – her mother’s intuition.

“Julia had a stomach bug and was having trouble keeping anything down,” recalls Serena. “It was very late and I was trying to go to sleep, but I got the sense that something was wrong: Her breathing wasn’t quite right.”

A frightening late-night hospital trip

Serena considered waiting out the night at home and calling their pediatrician in the morning, but she couldn’t stop watching Julia. So, despite the late hour, Serena decided to pack up the family, including 6-month-old Sebastian, and head to their local hospital. Once there, it turned out that Serena’s instincts had been right.

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Saving six: Life before and after transplant

An organ transplant is a life-changing event extending far beyond the operating room, the clinics and the hospital walls. Read about five children, one young adult and their families, whose lives were forever changed by the Pediatric Transplant Center at Boston Children’s Hospital.


Lydia’s liver transplant, a mom’s gift

Living donor liver transplant recipientDawn Cavanagh gave her daughter life twice — first when she was born and, again, when she gave 13-year-old Lydia a piece of her liver last summer. The donor-approval process, which occurs with Boston Children’s partner Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, required hours of medical screening, including an interview with a social worker, who asked if Dawn expected anything in return for being Lydia’s liver donor. “And I said, ‘Of course I expect something,’” explains Dawn. “’I expect her to live a long and happy life, and I expect her to be with me for a long time.’”

More than a year after her liver transplant, for Lydia’s birthday, Aug. 1, the Cavanagh family went on Lydia’s Make-A-Wish trip, a Disney cruise to the Bahamas. “We had so much fun,” says Dawn. “She’s a happy kid. She has dreams. She wants to be a transplant nurse, and she wants to work on 10 South at Boston Children’s Hospital.” 

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