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Close to Home, Wayne County Baby Finds Help for His Heart

Thursday, May 29, 2003

When she was 20 weeks pregnant, Ginger Anderson went for a routine ultrasound to check on her baby’s development. She and her husband, Rob, were shocked to learn their child had a life-threatening condition called hypoplastic left-heart syndrome. With this condition, the main pumping chamber of the heart, the left ventricle, is either absent or so small that it is unable to function and can’t adequately pump blood to the body.

 “We felt very overwhelmed,” Ginger says. “The doctor who reviewed the ultrasound told us that this condition was very serious.”

The next day, the Andersons visited the Children’s Heart Center, part of Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong. Using some of the most state-of-the-art imaging equipment in the country, Ginger underwent a fetal echocardiogram. “We reviewed the results with Dr. Carol Buzzard,” Ginger says. “Fortunately, one of our options was a series of three heart surgeries that would offer a chance to save our baby’s life.”

The Anderson’s baby, Casey, is one of five children chosen as Miracle Kids by Golisano Children’s Hospital. The stories of all five will be featured during the Golisano Children’s Hospital Telethon on 10NBC May 31 and June 1. The telethon is part of the hospital’s Miracle Weekend celebration.

Casey was born Aug. 6, 2002, at Strong, and was immediately whisked to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where he was given life-saving medications. Two days later, in the skilled hands of George Alfieris, M.D., the hospital’s pediatric heart surgeon, he underwent his first surgery.

“In the days that followed, we had some ups and downs,” Ginger says. “I remember walking down the hallway and seeing Dr. Alfieris, and he asked how we were doing. I told him some of my concerns, and he said, ‘Casey will be fine.’ That meant so much to us and really helped us get through the healing process.”

Casey was discharged from the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) - where all children who have heart surgery head after leaving the operating room - after only 10 days. Several days later, he went home for the first time. On Oct. 24, 2002, Casey had his second heart surgery. “This surgery caught us off guard, because we didn’t think it would be until January,” Ginger says. “But his oxygen level was getting lower, and they needed to do it right away. They told us to plan to be in the hospital for a month, and we were out of the PICU in eight days. It was amazing.”

Today, Casey is doing well, and the Andersons say they are “very blessed.” Casey visits the Children’s Heart Center every three months for check-ups, and his third surgery will happen within two to four years. The timing will be dictated by his heart function.

The Andersons, of Walworth, Wayne County, are grateful they didn’t have to travel out of the state to receive the best of care for Casey. “We knew that Boston was one of the top children’s hospitals in the country, but we talked to a local family who had a child with the same condition. That person told us, ‘You can go anywhere in the country that you want to, but you pretty much have the best in your own backyard,’” Ginger says. “We cannot say enough about the professionalism and the expertise of the staff at the Children’s Heart Center and the PICU. It blows me away how wonderful they were to us. The care he received was excellent.”

Under Alfieris’ direction, Golisano Children’s Hospital provides critically ill neonates born in the upstate area with results equal to those of other major centers in large cities such as Boston or Cleveland. He helps children with a variety of heart conditions including hypoplastic left-heart syndrome, anomalous pulmonary venous return, and transposition of the great arteries. He sees children who have major life-threatening conditions almost every day. Since Alfieris’ arrival more than three years ago, the volume of pediatric congenital heart surgery performed at Golisano Children’s Hospital has increased four-fold.

Miracle Weekend is always one of the most exciting times of the year for Golisano Children’s Hospital. Proceeds will help fund priority projects, such as a new, 22-bed Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit the hospital intends to build. Miracle Weekend includes two major events. The Golisano Children’s Hospital Telethon will be broadcast live from the hospital May 31 and June 1 on 10NBC . In addition, Miracle Weekend always includes the Stroll for Strong Kids, to be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 31, at Genesee Valley Park. Children’s activities and registration will begin at 9 a.m. When finished with their Stroll, walkers will be treated to a free lunch provided by Outback Steakhouse. There will be music by Gary the Happy Pirate, and many fun activities for the kids.

Participants are asked to raise money through sponsorship pledges from family members, friends and co-workers. Last year, some 1,000 people took part, raising more than $100,000 for Golisano Children’s Hospital. To register for the Stroll for Strong Kids, or learn more about any Miracle Weekend event, call 585-273-5948.

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