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Baby boy from Chardon overcomes odds and survives rare life-saving surgery at University Hospitals

Baby thriving after rare in-utero surgery
Posted at 7:33 AM, Oct 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-05 07:33:48-04

For a lot of expecting parents, the news that something is wrong with your baby is a nightmare. For Heather and Anthony Catanese of Chardon, that nightmare turned into their reality. They were 22-weeks pregnant with their third son, Lorenzo, when an ultrasound revealed he had a serious heart defect known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

Pediatric Cardiologist James Strainic says it's a serious condition.

"Essentially, being born with half of your heart working," he said.

Though now,  looking at 4-month-old Lorenzo Catanese you would have no idea. He may just be the smallest warrior you've ever seen.

"Sometimes I see him as this amazing miracle, but most of the time, I just see my baby," said Heather Catanese, Lorenzo's mom.

When he first received the diagnosis, his outlook was grim.

"Babies born with a heart defect like him essentially have a less than a 20% chance of survival," said Dr. Strainic.

A team of doctors throughout University Hospitals, including Strainic and Ellie Ragsdale, of the MacDonald's Women's Hospital, knew that Lorenzo needed a risky procedure. 

"It was brand new, it was cutting edge and the statistics were scary," said Anthony Catanese.

Fetal Aortic Valvuloplasty is a procedure that involves using an ultrasound, putting a needle through Heather's abdomen and into the uterus, through Lorenzo's tiny heart, and then using a balloon to inflate the aortic valve.

"It's a hard thing to ask a mom to undergo. There's a chance the baby could die during the procedure and that chance in and of itself is up to 20% and there's also a chance the baby could be born early," said Strainic.

Heather and Anthony knew the risks. They say they knew it would give Lorenzo a better chance of survival. Their goal was just to get through the pregnancy and be able to hold Lorenzo.

"You're trying to place a needle into a very small space where millimeters can make a difference," said Dr. Ragsdale.

But now every millimeter of Lorenzo's growth is celebrated. He has exceeded everyone's expectations. Out of the handful of times the surgery was attempted in Ohio, no babies have lived past the first month after birth.

"After the procedure, every checkup he was doing a little bit better, and a little bit better and a little bit better," said Heather Catanese.

Doctors measure his success in baby steps, but those steps, are huge leaps in medicine.

"Looking at him and just how great he's doing, you kind of feel like he's destined for something great. He's going to do something that we don't know about yet, but he is here for a reason," said Anthony Catanese.

Lorenzo has a long road of checkups ahead of him, but as of right now, Dr. Strainic says he doesn't have any restrictions and can live a happy, healthy, and normal life.