Miracle Kids: Andrew Monrad
Three-Stage Surgical Fix Works Wonders for This Kid Rock Star
In August 2002, Cathy and Mark Monrad were 20 weeks along in the pregnancy of their first child and struck with one of those rare pieces of news that halt everything.
The mid-point ultrasound check-up revealed that the left side of their baby’s heart and aorta would not fully develop and that, to survive, their son would require a three-stage surgical fix at Golisano Children’s Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center almost immediately after he was delivered.
The couple decided to press on with the pregnancy and give their son a chance. Just a week before Christmas 2002, little Andrew entered the world by emergency C-section and immediately was brought to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for monitoring. It proved a rocky start—doctors discovered that he had incurred a skull fracture during labor. “The next day was touch and go,” Cathy Monrad said. “They were determining if he had suffered brain damage. But he hadn’t; for us, this was the first of many miracles.”
With Andrew’s brain looking healthy, it was time for his first, 8-hour phase of corrective surgery. George Alfieris, M.D., the hospital’s leading pediatric heart surgeon, assured the Monrads that he would treat their boy like his own.
“I know that’s something you’d expect to hear,” Monrad said. “But underneath, there was more than words. There was an authenticity we can’t put our finger on, and we immediately knew he really meant it.”
Andrew was sent home in mid-January, but would return to Golisano Children’s Hospital in March for the surgery’s second phase. Due to scar tissue, his aorta had narrowed so much, it had virtually closed.
In the hospital, Andrew battled a blood clot and an infection. Both put surgery on hold. But when Andrew was finally ready for the operation, he sailed through, and even bounced back quickly enough to be featured on a television spot with Tom Golisano and Rich Funke.
But then the tide turned again. Andrew would need more surgery—this time, not on his heart, but to remove part of his intestine which had died from lack of oxygen during earlier heart troubles. A temporary ostomy would allow Andrew’s muscles time to heal, and he stayed at the hospital straight through his parents’ first Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. “In typical Andrew fashion, there were a couple more bumps in the road,” Monrad said. “A mass was found in his abdomen, which they planned to promptly remove.”
But when the chief pediatric surgeon, Walter Pegoli, M.D., operated to reverse the ostomy, the mass wasn’t there anymore; it had dissipated on its own. By this point it was clear that Andrew was being sustained by something more than just good science.
“We were starting to think of him as some sort of superhero,” Monrad said. “We were waiting for his next feat.”
Thankfully, that July marked the last of his stays for a stretch. Just more than 6 months old, Andrew returned home and, with the help of physical and occupational therapy, began running, climbing, and doing normal little boy things. He avoided long stays in the children’s hospital for more than three years.
Then, in September 2006, a few months before Andrew’s fourth birthday, the third and final surgery was performed—again, problem-free. Within mere days, Andrew was ventilator-free and walking circles around the unit. His smile attracted fans, and soon, nurses and doctors were calling him a “rock star,” because of the way he made rounds, “touring” the floor. The day before Halloween, his chest images looked extraordinary—at last—and Andrew was cleared to resume all normal activities.
“Which meant, he promptly donned his cop costume and made good on his clean bill of health by trick-or-treating,” Monrad recalled.
Today, Andrew loves to sing, play outside, put together puzzles and attend pre-school, where he “absolutely thrives,” Monrad said.
“He loves music, and really is a rock star, as they tease him,” Monrad said. “He’s just as famous, too. Every time we visit that floor, so many people call out to him, saying ‘Hi.’ More people than I can remember the names for. That’s the sort of support that you need, and it’s refreshing to know it’s still there waiting in case we—or anyone else—ever need it.”