17-Year-Old Hockey Fan Celebrates Newly Repaired Heart and Upcoming Graduation with Surprise Visit by Hall of Famer

NEW HYDE PARK, NY –Cord Lehman of Syosset showed poise and calm beyond his years when he said it was a no-brainer to undergo a Melody Valve procedure instead of open-heart surgery. It was a different story when the 17-year-old came face-to-face with his hero, Pat LaFontaine, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Cord gladly joined his parents and doctors at a press conference held at Cohen Children’s Medical Center to explain the workings of the Melody Valve, a revolutionary treatment option for patients living with heart issues that might later require open-heart surgery. A self-proclaimed “obsessive hockey fan,” Cord was made even happier when his hero, Mr. LaFontaine, entered the room with a signed hockey stick.

When Cord was just 48 hours old, he underwent surgery with Vincent Parnell, MD, Surgeon-in-Chief at Cohen.

“Cord was born with Tetralogy of Fallot,” said Dr. Parnell, “a congenital heart defect that changes the normal flow of blood through the heart.”

Dr. Parnell explained that the surgery he performed on 2-day-old Cord helped bring oxygenated blood to the baby’s tiny lungs by inserting tubes called conduits. Several months later, Dr. Parnell once again operated on Cord’s heart. Because these conduits may become damaged or too small for the growing child, a patient born with Tetralogy of Fallot often faced a certain future of open heart surgery.

Fortunately, Dipak Kholwadwala, MD, an interventional radiologist at Cohen, had been trained in the use of the Melody Valve and decided that Cord was a perfect candidate for the procedure.

“Because it is non-invasive with the valve being introduced through the groin, patients like Cord are able to recuperate quickly with less chance of infection,” said Dr. Kholwadwala. “In fact, Cord’s case went so well that we sent him home one day after the procedure.”

Flanked by his parents, Randi and Bob, Cord shared his story and concluded by thanking his doctors and his parents.

“It’s a wonderful thing to know that I won’t be needing open heart surgery any time soon…or maybe never.  I’m very happy.”

Mr. LaFontaine founded a charity called The Companions in Courage Foundation as a way to connect hospitalized children with their family and friends by delivering mobile XBox 360 kiosks to patients’ bedsides throughout North America. While posing for pictures with a beaming Cord, the former NHL star noted that the real heroes are young people like Cord who face their illnesses with courage and grace.

“It’s an honor to be here with Cord and his family today, not only to celebrate his continued good health, but his upcoming high school graduation.”

Asked what he was most excited about, Cord summed up the day by saying, “I always knew I would go ahead with the Melody Valve technology. I trust my parents and my doctors. I’m pretty matter-of-fact about that. But, meeting Pat LaFontaine -- I’m in ecstasy.”

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