Little Anthony was only days old when doctors in Sigonella, Italy, made a discovery that would send his family on an international trek in search of hope and healing.
Born in Sicily, where his father was stationed with the U.S. Navy, Anthony’s tiny heart was so riddled with defects that Navy physicians advised the family to seek care at a naval facility in Portsmouth,Virginia, and made arrangements for transporting the family. Luis and Mariluz and their ailing newborn were flown first to Germany and, later,Washington, D.C., in November 2010.
With the support of the U.S. Navy, the family’s search led them to The Congenital Heart Institute at Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital – one of the leading heart programs in the nation known for its innovative techniques.
Dr. Redmond P. Burke, Chief of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery at Nicklaus Children's, said
Anthony’s eight-hour procedure was groundbreaking. Anthony’s arteries exiting his heart were improperly connected and cow veins were used to create new [Anthony] arteries. In addition, several holes needed to be repaired and valves replaced. “We really had to rebuild about half his heart,” recalls Dr. Burke. It was one of the most complex procedures in a high-profile career with many firsts.
The result was a happy one for the family. Local news crews visited the family on Veterans Day to celebrate the successful surgery, and Anthony was able to leave the hospital to stay with relatives in Miami eight days later.
“Anthony can look forward to a normal life,” said Dr. Burke. “We appreciate that Anthony’s father was protecting our children and our country. We were honored to take care of his child.”