The cookies for Dean Andersen’s welcome-home celebration were decorated with “#300,” fitting for the two-year-old who, just six weeks earlier, received the 300th heart transplant performed at Boston Children’s Hospital.
“Dean does things in his own time and in his own way,” says his mom, Janet Andersen. “His transplant was no exception.”
The Boston Children’s Heart Transplant Program performed its first transplant in 1986, and this May marked the program’s 30th anniversary. Dean’s transplant in June was yet another reason for celebration.
“Milestones like these are not accomplished without our amazing multidisciplinary staff, whose unending commitment and dedication provide an incredible model of excellence; the families and their children, who have taught us so much about resiliency, love, and true spirit; and lastly, the donor families, who in their worst hours of loss, could see through to the needs of another child and family to donate the gift of life,” says Dr. Elizabeth Blume, Heart Transplant Program medical director.
A failing heart
Dean was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect while Janet was still pregnant. When Dean was born, he was found to have a more complex, rare type of congenital heart disease, which included corrected transposition of the great arteries with pulmonary atresia and atrioventricular canal defect. This meant his heart was on the wrong side of his body, the two main arteries leaving the heart were reversed, one of those vessels was not formed normally, and there was a large hole in the middle of his heart. Although a fraternal twin, his brother Lou was unaffected.
“After his shunt in the first week of life, his doctors told us that at about nine months to a year, Dean would need a complex biventricular repair including switching the atrial blood flow, closing the hole and a conduit to provide blood flow to the lungs, essentially to reconstruct the entire heart,” Janet explains. “And that’s what we geared up for in the first year of life.”
Dean went into the surgery healthy, but he never fully recovered. “It just wasn’t enough to help his heart,” says Janet. …
When Robin Scott was a little girl, traveling back and forth to the hospital to be treated for her single ventricle heart defect, her mother, Susan, had a simple wish: “What I really wanted was to see an older child who had a heart defect … I wanted to see teenagers, adults … I wanted to see people who had a normal life.”
Funny how things work out. Today, Susan’s daughter is 30 years old and working at Boston Children’s Hospital—the same place she’s been receiving treatment since she was born. Robin, who recently transitioned to an analyst role in the Physicians’ Organization, previously worked in the Advanced Fetal Care Center (AFCC). There, she was frequently asked to meet with fetal cardiac patients and their expectant parents, answering questions about her own experience and serving as a strong, healthy example of a congenital heart patient living a normal life.
Robin had volunteered at Boston Children’s as a teenager and had “always wanted to work at the hospital.” When a job opportunity came along in 2010, she took it. Strangely, Robin says that the job recruiters who helped place her at Boston Children’s did not know that she had been treated there, and her personal history had nothing to do with their hiring decision.
Today Robin is often in contact with doctors and nurses who care for heart patients, and they regularly ask for Robin’s help in answering questions from parents. …