Parents Return To Cohen, Thank Doctors Who Saved Their 4-Month-Old Daughter

Parents Return To Cohen, Thank Doctors Who Saved Their 4-Month-Old Daughter
Pictured at a press conference celebrating baby JoHanna’s successful heart surgery are : (Top row: Dr. David Meyer, Dr. Shilip Epstein; Bottom row: Michelle and Jason Ribisi with their daughter, JoHanna.

NEW HYDE PARK, NY –Turned out in her finest hot pink coat and a furry white headband, four-month-old JoHanna Ribisi stole the show from her grateful parents, Michelle and Jason this week when the family returned to Cohen Children’s Medical Center to thank the doctors who performed a rare, hybrid cardiac procedure that saved Johanna’s life.

The family was back at Cohen’s for a press conference that also featured the cardiologists who teamed up to save the baby using a less invasive procedure.

“JoHanna was born on May 31 and was fine for the first two months of her life,” her father explained. “We brought her to her pediatrician for a routine visit and were shocked to discover that she had a heart murmur.”

The worried parents also noted that their daughter was barely eating and wasn’t gaining weight. A visit to a pediatric cardiologist revealed the worst news---JoHanna was living with congestive heart failure.

“For a new mom, those are the worst words you could ever hear,” said a clearly emotional Michelle.

Further testing revealed a large, muscular ventricular septal defect (VDS), a hole located between the lower chambers of the heart. The baby was started on medicines to help her heart and lungs work more efficiently; and was referred to David Meyer, MD, a pediatric cardiology surgeon at Cohen.

“We discovered that the defect was very large and near the bottom of the heart, near lots of thick, muscle bundles,” Dr. Meyer said. “With a heart this size (about the size of JoHanna’s fist), it’s difficult to close the defect completely with traditional open-heart surgery. Also, traditional surgery requires a larger chest incision, and the use of the heart-lung bypass machine, which completely stops the heart while we work to repair it. We wanted to try another approach.”

The new plan allowed Dr. Meyer and his colleague, Shilpi Epstein, MD, an interventional pediatric cardiologist to close the VSD in the beating heart through a small hole in the chest wall and a smaller opening into the heart.

“The procedure would involve the use of an Amplatzer muscular VSD device,” said Dr. Epstein. “This requires only a small chest wall incision and no by-pass for a complete fix of the VSD. So, when I finished repairing the hole in the heart, Dr. Meyer took over to tie up the tiny blood vessels and close the incision.”

Baby JoHanna underwent a two-hour surgery on Sept. 15, 2014, and went home three days later.  The recovery was less painful than if she had undergone traditional surgery, and she sports only a tiny scar (which her parents agreed would be good news to a beautiful, teen-age girl). 

“This is really what makes us wake up in the morning. It’s just wonderful,” said Dr. Meyer.

To view a video click here.

About the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York
Opened in 1983, the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York is home to about 675 pediatricians, including 200 full-time physicians, and a total workforce of more than 1,200, including more than 500 nurses. For the eighth consecutive year in 2014, CCMC was ranked among the best children’s hospitals in the nation in U.S. News & World Report's 2014-15 “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals” survey.

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