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Docs ‘Do Miracles’ During Heart Surgery at Children’s Hospital

Docs ‘Do Miracles’ During Heart Surgery at Children’s Hospital

‘LITTLE SUPERSTAR’: Oana Geambasu holds a photo of her 18-month-old daughter, Sonia, who is recovering after heart surgery at Children’s Hospital Boston. (Photo by Ted Fitzgerald)

Jessica Fargen / Boston Herald

December 25, 2008

For one Romanian mom whose baby girl was once given only months to live, the most precious gift of her daughter’s young life came this Christmas week when doctors at Children’s Hospital in Boston fixed the brave little girl’s heart.

“They do miracles here,” said Oana Geambasu, whose 18-month-old daughter, Sonia, was just 6 days old when doctors in Romania told her that Sonia’s heart was on the right side of her chest.

Geambasu and Sonia’s father, Alex Conovaru, are spending the holiday hovering around the cardiac intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital Boston, where Sonia is recovering from Monday’s nine-hour operation during which surgeons corrected her inverted right and left heart ventricles and transplanted an artery.

“She’s been a little superstar,” said Sonia’s surgeon, Dr. Pedro J. del Nido, chairman of the cardiac surgery department at Children’s, one of a few hospitals in the world that specializes in fixing pediatric heart defects like the one plaguing Sonia.

“Without the surgery she would have died. She couldn’t have her life without this,” Geambasu, the 22-year-old first-time mom, said during an interview at Children’s, which she calls the “heaven of hospitals.”

Sonia’s journey to Boston came after two heart surgeries, a $130,000 fund-raising drive in Bucharest, Romania, and one frightening afternoon when her heart stopped beating altogether, and then started again.

“It was beating very, very fast, and it just stopped, and then her hands fell down, and I threw her on the bed and I started doing CPR,” Geambasu said, recalling the afternoon of July 12 last year when Sonia went limp in her arms. “(Doctors) kept telling me, ‘She won’t make it. She won’t make it. Quit thinking about it.’ ”

Geambasu, who was studying acting before she had Sonia, said she struggled with the grim prognosis. Doctors told her that even if Sonia survived, her life would be so painful, it would not be worth living.

“In a few days she just got better and I said, ‘Oh my God, she wants to live. Who am I not to give her that chance?’ ” she said. “She chose to live.”

Surgeons at a heart hospital in Germany operated on Sonia when she was 6 weeks old, and again at 11 months, but after that doctors told Geambasu they could do no more. Refusing to give up, Geambasu and a Romanian doctor who had previously worked at Children’s contacted del Nido, who agreed to help Sonia.

Daniela Lungu, 44, a journalist at a Bucharest television station who works with Sonia’s father, took on Sonia’s cause and helped raise $130,000. Children’s is charging Geambasu the bare minimum cost of the surgery – about $90,000, Geambasu said.

“Sonia is a fighter,” Lungu said in an e-mail to the Herald. She is so small, but when you can see her eyes, you can understand that she will live and she will be a great lady.”

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