When a precious unborn baby developed an extremely rare heart problem, he needed an even rarer surgery to solve it. As seen on a September 2018 episode of The Doctors, that’s exactly what happened — and the infant’s doting parents, Heather and Anthony Cantanese, could not be more grateful.
The problems first arose when Heather was about 20 weeks pregnant. She and her husband learned that one valve of their baby Lorenzo’s heart had developed a blockage, while another valve was developing a leak. This was such a rare and complicated problem that doctors told the worried parents their only option would be in-utero surgery. Otherwise, their developing child would surely not survive. But even the surgery carried just a 20 percent chance of success.
“All we really wanted at that point was to meet our child and hold him, and have a few hours to try to make that special,” Heather said.
So at 24 weeks, Heather underwent the procedure at Cleveland’s UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. It involved a complex process of inserting a small needle through the mom’s abdomen, into the uterus, and directly into the fetus’s heart. The doctor then used a wire to insert a balloon, which inflated to open up a valve and encourage normal blood flow. As if all this wasn't complicated enough, keep in mind that the unborn child’s heart was only the size of a strawberry at that point.
But against all odds, the surgery ended up a huge success. In the weeks that followed, Lorenzo continued to get better and better. Now, the boy once fighting to survive is three months old and will finally be able to live a normal life. His parents, as you can imagine, are completely over the moon.
“We went from discussions about what things did we want to do with him in whatever short amount of time we may be able to spend with him to talking with the doctors about what sports he may or may not be able to play in high school,” Heather said.
The team of doctors who helped the family welcome their tiny-yet-healthy miracle baby are also ecstatic.
"You go into medicine to make a difference, and there are rarely single moments in time where you feel that," said Ellie Ragsdale, MD, director of fetal intervention at UH MacDonald Women’s Hospital. "That day seeing her hold her baby on the operating table and five days later seeing her walk out of the hospital with her baby in a car seat like any other mom — you can’t describe it. It’s an incredibly humbling experience."
Talk about a beautiful story! Congratulations to the happy family.