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Five Years After Open Heart Surgery at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, Brian Is Stronger Than Ever!

August 2004 — Brian's open heart surgery scar is in the shape of an exclamation point. His parents, Jackie and Tim, say it suits his personality
to a T.

Brian was just 1 year old when his doctor, Lillian Evans, MD, pediatrician on the medical staff at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital and Memorial Hospital West, detected a heart murmur during his well-child physical. After monitoring Brian closely, she recommended a second opinion from a pediatric cardiologist on the medical staff at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital.

Tim and Jackie were shocked to learn that Brian had a dime-sized hole in his heart and was functioning at only 70 to 80 percent of his physical capacity. He had none of the telltale symptoms of atrial septal defect (ASD), like blueness around the mouth or painful fingers and toes. In fact, he was incredibly active. But one side of his heart was working harder than the other, causing that side to enlarge. Without proper treatment, Brian's health would deteriorate.

Surgical Expertise and Compassionate Care

Brian

While Brian did not require immediate intervention, he would need surgery to repair his heart once he was a little older. Brian's parents were prepared to go anywhere in the world to get the open heart surgery their son needed, but fortunately, the care he needed was right in their own neighborhood. "We wanted the best for Brian, and we knew Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital could provide it," says Tim.

In 1998, four days before Brian's 3rd birthday, he was admitted to Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital for open heart surgery. The hole in his heart was repaired using pericardial tissue from Brian's heart for a patch. "It was traumatic to let him go into surgery," says Tim. "But we trusted his doctors completely." Jackie adds, "Not only did Brian have the finest medical treatment, but he also received all the love and comfort he needed. The doctors and nurses made something very difficult a whole lot easier for all of us."

Brian's parents were with him every day and took turns staying with Brian each night during the six days he was at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital. Brian doesn't really remember his time there, but Jackie and Tim do. "Brian had fantastic care there — topnotch, absolutely fabulous," says Tim. "It wasn't just the surgeons and the nurses, but the entire staff, including Lotsy Dotsy. They really took to Brian and the other kids under their care. It is a complete package there." And when Brian needed to stay an extra day because of a cough he developed, the nurses helped him celebrate his birthday with a special cake and a heart-shaped pillow they all signed.

About a week after Brian returned home, he started to venture outside to play. His physician told Jackie and Tim to let him be the judge of how fast he should move and how soon. Two weeks later at a follow up visit with his cardiologist, another patient was amazed to learn Brian was an open heart surgery patient, saying, "I had surgery six months ago and I'm still recuperating!"

A Complete Recovery

Brian's entire hospital stay is captured in a beautiful photo album created by his mother. It tells the story of his surgery, including pictures of his surgeons, nurses and the support staff at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital. Brian can easily flip through these pages and see the loving care extended to him during his stay there.

Today, 9-year-old Brian is riding his bike, climbing trees and playing non-stop. When asked if there is anything he can't do, Brian just shakes his head. He does visit his Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital doctors when he needs to — but not for his heart, which is completely healed. Brian is so active he has been in for stitches three times already. Although Brian's scar is shrinking as he grows, the exclamation point seems to be just the beginning of his story.