Born with a broken heart

Massimo Mini’s birth left his parents torn between joy and utter dismay: just two hours after their baby came into the world, Natacha Persopoulos and Claudio Mini learned that he had a congenital heart malformation known as “transposition of the great arteries.” Simply put, his aorta and pulmonary arteries were reversed, resulting in an inability of his heart to provide oxygenated blood.

Moreover, there was a large hole in Massimo’s heart that had to be addressed immediately. Just a few hours after he was born, Massimo underwent his first heart surgery.

However, Dr. Christo Tchervenkov, Director of Cardiovascular Surgery at the Children’s, knew that Massimo would need more surgery to correct the transposition of the great arteries. He hoped to delay the operation for a few months so the newborn could become bigger and stronger but Massimo began to turn blue when he was just five weeks old. “Without any kind of intervention, I don’t think he would have survived more than another few days to two weeks at the most,” Dr. Tchervenkov explained. The baby was rushed into the operating room early one Saturday morning for the delicate operation to repair his heart.

Natacha remembers how the friendly competition between members of the surgical team to carry Massimo into the operating room immediately set her at ease. She knew her baby was in good hands.

For Natacha and Claudio, there was nothing left to do but wait. To their surprise, the operation took less time than anticipated: a little more than five hours.

When they first saw Massimo in post-op, the nurse warned the couple that seeing their child hooked up to a lot of equipment might be difficult but Natacha didn’t care. It took just one look for her to know that everything would be okay. Massimo’s skin was no longer blue. “His feet were pink!” Natacha marveled. “They were beautiful!”

Massimo’s diagnosis, surgery and recovery marshalled the talents of several dozen health professionals and required vast technological and other material resources. Everyone, from the parents to the lead surgeon, acknowledges that donors are vital members of the team. “Donations,” says Dr. Tchervenkov, “are extremely precious and greatly appreciated.”

© 2018 The Montreal
Children’s Hospital Foundation

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