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Queens Chronicle

One tiny heart, and many, many big ones

Expert surgeon, cardio team saves a Flushing baby’s life at the get-go

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Posted: Thursday, March 6, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:39 am, Thu Mar 13, 2014.

If little Aleeah Quezada’s condition hadn’t been diagnosed properly, or if Dr. Vince Parnell’s hands weren’t so skilled, or if an entire team at Cohen Children’s Medical Center wasn’t there doing its job, the Flushing infant wouldn’t live out the year.

But Aleeah’s heart defect was diagnosed correctly, halfway through her mother’s pregnancy, by Dr. Preeta Dhanantwari, Parnell and his team peformed a successful surgery, and now the two-month old should live out a normal life.

“She truly is a miracle baby,” Aleeah’s father, Carlos, said last Friday, the day she turned two months old. Carlos and Aleeah’s mother, Carolina Osorio brought her back to the Cohen center that day for a celebration with Parnell, Dhanantwari and other members of the team who saved their first child’s life with an operation conducted just four days after she was born.

Aleeah did her part by making a speedy recovery, leaving the hospital only a week after the four-hour operation done Jan. 2

“It was an amazing recovery rate,” Osorio said. “We expected her to be here a month. The doctors said, based on other cases, it would be two or three weeks after the surgery. But after one week, she said, ‘That’s it, I’m done over here,’ and she was out.”

The problem had been detected by an ultrasound done when Osorio was only halfway through her pregnancy and Aleeah’s heart was the size of a quarter. It was a transposition of the two great arteries, meaning they were connected to the wrong sides of her heart. A baby with such a condition does not get enough oxygen in the blood and cannot survive, Parnell said. The defect appears in about two or three of every 10,000 live births.

But the surgeon and the rest of the North Shore-LIJ Health System team see it on a periodic basis and knew just what to do. With machines keeping her blood pumping, Parnell disconnected the arteries from Aleeah’s heart and reconnected them correctly.

The surgeon, a Bayside native, was modest about his work saving lives. “It’s a team,” he said. “No one individual is the indispensable element.”

And while he said Aleeah’s future doctors will have to know about her condition and keep an eye on it, she should be fine.

“We have every hope that she will live a long and fulfilling life and will bring her parents every happiness,” he said. “It’s a lifelong maintenance program, but we are very optimistic she can lead a normal life.”

Osorio, a structural engineer, and Quezada, an architect, said Aleeah, their first child, has been a perfectly normal baby. Her napping, stretching and brief crying during the celebration — which can be seen online at bit.ly/1hNZsG7 — and her need for a diaper change just before it began, seemed all the evidence a layman would need to agree.

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