Stories about: patent ductus arteriosus

A salute to Noah’s heroes

premature-twins

Noah Hamm has escaped death more times than his mother Danielle can count. And he’s only 3.

Since Noah was born there have been three constants in his life: Noah’s knack for near misses, his family and a neonatologist/pulmonologist who’s always there with the right care for Noah … and the right words for his family.

“I tell Larry [Dr. Larry Rhein] he’s our George Bailey,” says Noah’s mom Danielle.

Larry gave me hope. Even when things were bad, I always felt better when Larry was there.

Noah was a 29-week twin when Danielle’s water broke prematurely. “The only condition I thought I had to worry about after having a STAT C-section was prematurity,” she recalls.

Six hours after Noah and his sister Dakotah were born at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, specialists told Danielle and her husband Brendan their newborn son needed surgery for esophageal atresia, a gap in his esophagus, and tracheoesophageal fistula, an abnormal connection between his esophagus and trachea.

Nurses brought Noah to Danielle to let her hold her son before transferring him to Boston Children’s Hospital. “They weren’t sure he’d make it through the first night,” says Danielle.

But Noah did make it through the night and through his first surgery, when Dr. Terry Buchmiller, a surgeon at Boston Children’s, repaired Noah’s tracheaesophageal fistula and placed a G-tube to deliver nutrition directly to Noah’s stomach.

A few days after Noah’s first surgery, he was was diagnosed with patent ductus arteriosus; the path between his pulmonary and aortic valves did not close after birth as it should have.

Two weeks later, Danielle could see that Noah didn’t look quite right. She grabbed Dr. Anne Hansen, medical director of the Boston Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and doctors discovered the hole in Noah’s heart had blown open. He needed emergency heart surgery.

Rhein made his first appearance in Noah’s life that night.

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Preemie Jace Perkins rocks ’n rolls through 137 days in the NICU

Melyssa Perkins was 25 weeks into a healthy pregnancy with her first child when she began to have abdominal pain. She called her local nurse who said she was probably dehydrated, but when water didn’t help and the pain increased, Melyssa and her husband Jamie rushed to nearby Beverly Hospital, where they discovered that she was fully dilated.

“I don’t think I said one word at that point. I was in complete shock,” recalls Melyssa. Two hours after the couple arrived at the hospital, their son Jace was born at 1lb. 12 oz. Beverly Hospital stabilized Jace and arranged for immediate transport to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Boston Children’s Hospital.

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Happy 75th birthday, congenital heart defect surgery!

Robert Gross, MD

75 years ago Boston Children’s Hospital’s Robert Gross, MD, made medical history when he performed the first surgery to correct a congenital heart defect.

His patient was 7-year-old Lorraine Sweeney, from Brighton, Mass., who had been diagnosed with patent ductus arteriosus, a congenital heart defect consisting of a persistent abnormal opening between the pulmonary artery and the aorta. In 1938, it was generally a death sentence—but where others saw the impossible Gross, the chief surgical resident at Boston Children’s at the time, saw opportunity.

“If you look at the history of cardiac surgery,” says Boston Children’s Associate Anesthesiologist-in-Chief Mark Rockoff, MD, who also chairs the hospital’s Archives Program, “it essentially all started with Dr. Gross.”

After two years of successful animal experiments, Gross was certain that the defect could be corrected in a human being “without undue danger.” He lobbied for the opportunity to test his theory, despite skepticism from his peers, and direct opposition from William Ladd, MD, Boston Children’s surgeon-in-chief at the time, and Gross’s superior.

Undaunted, Gross waited until Ladd boarded a ship bound for a Europe. Then, with the blessing of Sweeney’s mother, he put his career on the line and performed a revolutionary surgery—tying off Sweeney’s patent ductus arteriosus, allowing normal flow of blood through her heart. “Dr. Gross told me that if I had died, he would never have worked again,” Sweeney recalls. “He would have ended up back on his family’s chicken farm.”

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