NHL Hall-of-Famer Surprises Teen Celebrating Newly Repaired Heart

Hockey great Pat LaFontaine visited patient Cord Lehman at Cohen Children's.

A Syosset teen was cool as a cucumber during a recent news conference to discuss his heart valve procedure at Cohen Children’s Medical Center. His demeanor changed a bit, however, when hockey Hall-of-Famer Pat LaFontaine made a surprise appearance and presented him with a signed hockey stick.

Cord Lehman, age 17, beamed as he posed for pictures with the former Islanders and Rangers great.

“I always knew I would go ahead with the Melody valve technology. I trust my parents and my doctors,” the hockey fan said. “But meeting Pat LaFontaine — I’m in ecstasy.”

The athlete said he was glad to be part of the event and 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, to celebrate not only his continued good health but his upcoming high school graduation,” Mr. LaFontaine said.

The hockey star is no stranger to the hospital. He founded the Companions in Courage Foundation to connect hospitalized children with their family and friends by delivering mobile Xbox 360 kiosks to patients’ bedsides throughout North America, including Cohen Children’s.


At 48 hours old, Cord underwent surgery with Vincent Parnell, MD, surgeon-inchief at Cohen Children’s, to correct a condition called tetralogy of Fallot. Dr. Parnell inserted tubes called conduits to help bring oxygenated blood to the baby’s lungs. Several months later, Dr. Parnell once again operated on Cord’s heart.

Because conduits may become damaged or a child can outgrow them, patients born with tetralogy of Fallot often face a future with multiple open-heart surgeries. Fortunately, Dipak Kholwadwala, MD, an interventional radiologist at Cohen Children’s, was trained in the use of the Melody valve, a revolutionary treatment option for patients with heart issues. He saw that Cord was a perfect candidate for the procedure.

“Because the Melody valve procedure is noninvasive, patients like Cord can recuperate quickly with a reduced risk of infection,” said Dr. Kholwadwala. “In fact, Cord’s case went so well that we sent him home one day after the procedure.”

Want to help others? To find out how you can help Cohen Children’s Medical Center be there for the thousands of patients and families who need care each year, call 516-465-2562.

Read the next article in the Winter 2015 issue of Kids First: Cohen Children’s Welcomes New Pediatric Orthopedic Specialists, Expands to Meet Community Needs

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