The Heart of the Matter: A Love Letter

February is a special month to me... not because it's the month in which my birthday falls (especially as I am no longer counting), nor because of Valentine's Day... but rather because February is National Heart Month. It is a time to spread awareness of heart disease and also to recognize the astounding achievements of the medical community in treating matters of the heart and these things are important to me.

I am more tuned in to heart month than most because I have a daughter who was born with Congenital Heart Disease. She had two open-heart surgeries by the time she was 13. Both performed at Boston Children's Hospital.

When it was time for our daughter's first open-heart surgery, at 8-years-old, my husband and I went into high gear. We started making calls to everyone we knew to determine who was the best pediatric heart surgeon in the world. We didn't care how far we had to go. We left no stone unturned. All roads led to Boston Children's Hospital, the world leaders in Pediatric Cardiology.

What we learned along the way, was that the most important decision you can make is in whose hands are you going to place your child's life. It's as simple as that. All hospitals are not created equal. All doctors are not created equal. There is a massive disparity between hospitals in many cases. My daughter was one of the first patients in the world to undergo a new procedure developed by the renowned cardiologist at Boston Children's Hospital, Dr. James Lock. She had an umbrella device (now called the Cardioseal) implanted over a hole in her heart that couldn't be accessed surgically. This procedure allowed her to have open-heart surgery three days later with an outcome that would not have been possible anywhere else in the world.

When your child has a serious health issue, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Paralyzed. Powerless, at a time when you so desperately want to be in control. It is hard to think straight. I know. So, keep it simple. Put all your energy into finding the best doctor for your child's particular issue. It really all boils down to due diligence. These are the most important two words to consider when your child is very ill. Don't shrink. Don't surrender. Fight. Fight the urge to stick with those you know, however comforting that might be. Find the best. It is the only thing that is in your control. Once you do that, you have done the very best for your child. The rest is out of your hands, but you can rest happy with the knowledge that you have done everything possible to turn your child over to the very best hands.

My daughter is now 28-years-old. Her case was complex. The results were exceptional... like the people who work at Boston Children's. She's traveled the world, enjoyed a short career as a pop singer, graduated from Columbia University, and is looking forward to going to grad school. She loves to dance, is passionate about giving back and is another ray of sunshine, shining on the world because some very special people decided to make improving the lives of others their life's work.

With a heart full of gratitude for the doctors and nurses at Boston Children's, I wanted to take this opportunity this month to share some thoughts with other parents whose hearts are heavy every day because their child is not well... because their child has a much harder road in front of them than most other children.

On Valentines Day, my love letter is to the doctors in my daughter's life. Medicine is their business, but it is obvious that they succeed at the highest levels as much due to their passionate hearts as due to their brilliant minds. Those at the forefront of pediatric research are a special breed. Several years ago my daughter sang with her twin sister (who has been by her side every step of the way) at an event for Boston Children's. As they performed on stage, I noticed her cardiologist watch her through moist eyes fifteen years after he performed his breakthrough procedure on her.

There are exceptional human beings in the world taking exceptional care of those in need. Happy Valentine's Day to all those who through their work and sacrifice help lift our hearts and to all those whose hearts need lifting.