Stories about: ventricular septal defect

Experience Journal: ‘Heart defects won’t keep me from reaching my goals’

Emily Ryan was born with coarctation of the aorta and a ventricular septal defect (VSD). But these congenital heart defects have never kept her down. Even though she’s had a pacemaker since age 4, she’s always led an extremely active lifestyle.

Emily’s parents and her team of caregivers from the Heart Center at Boston Children’s Hospital have helped Emily understand her heart condition and have given her the confidence and encouragement to realize her full potential — both in the classroom and on the track.

Now a competitive Division 1 athlete and outdoor leader in college, Emily wants everyone to understand, “Just because you have a congenital heart defect, doesn’t mean you can’t be active or do whatever you want to do.”

The Experience Journals are collections of stories, videos and personal experiences from families about what it has been like to live with their children’s illnesses. This video is part of the Heart Experience Journal, created by the Department of Psychiatry and the Heart Center.

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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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Double the joy, following heart-lung transplant

Heart lung transplant recipient Nicole with her twin Isabella
Nicole, left, and her twin sister Isabella

Nearly six months following a heart-lung transplant, Nicole Kouri makes a triumphant return to school, alongside her twin sister Isabella. It was a pact she made with her Dad back in August of 2015, while her friends were lying by the pool, soaking up the final days of summer, and Nicole was lying in a bed at Boston Children’s Hospital.

14-year-old Nicole was born with a ventricular septal defect (VSD) — otherwise known as a hole in the heart — and pulmonary hypertension, a serious condition associated with VSD that makes it difficult for blood to flow properly through the lungs.

Being sick was Nicole’s “normal.”

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