Heart Patient Celebrates His Third Birthday by Visiting the Staff who Saved His Life

By Evan Koch

When Ian Sisco returned to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in 2018, his latest visit stood in stark contrast to his first one back in 2015.

When Ian was less than one day old, he was transported to the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) by Memorial Hermann Life Flight®. Ten days later, he underwent surgery to repair a rare congenital heart defect at Children’s Heart Center at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital.

Now, Ian stood on the same floor of the hospital where he recovered from surgery, with his parents, Jacqueline and Dani Sisco, younger brother, Isacar, and his bible, microphone and favorite Toy Story figurines by his side.

It was a special moment for the Sisco family, and not just because it was Ian’s third birthday.

“I wanted to come back earlier but wasn’t ready to return to a place where there were so many emotions for us,” Jacqueline said. “We just wanted to say, ‘thank you.’”

Ian met with pediatric heart surgeon Robert Hanfland, MD, and pediatric cardiovascular surgery clinical nurse manager Becky Sam, BSN, RN for the first time as a non-patient.

The handshakes soon turned to hugs. “It is always something that reaches my heart when parents say ‘thanks,’” Dr. Hanfland said. “I respond by saying ‘thank you’ back to them for trusting us to care for their child. It is such a privilege to take care of these kids.”

Remembering the Discovery of Ian’s Rare Heart Defect

A pediatrician detected a distinct heart murmur when Ian was just 12 hours old. Ian was stable but the cause of the murmur wasn’t immediately known. Within hours of detecting the murmur, Ian was placed on a Life Flight helicopter and transported 44 miles to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital to receive a higher level of care.

“I just started crying. I didn’t know what was going to happen after that,” Jacqueline said.

To compound the situation, Jacqueline’s blood pressure spiked upon hearing of Ian’s heart issue. She had to stay overnight at the hospital where she gave birth to Ian, while Dani drove to Houston to be with their son.

Soon after arriving at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, Ian was diagnosed with truncus arteriosus, a rare condition found in only 300 children each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Normally, the aorta and pulmonary artery deliver blood pumped by the heart separately to the body and lungs. Hearts affected by truncus arteriosus only form one vessel to carry blood. The single vessel delivers too much blood to the lungs, which forces the heart to work harder. This causes complications that eventually become life-threatening without intervention.

Ian would need open heart surgery to repair his heart.

Successful Open Heart Surgery and a Quick Recovery

In the days leading up to Ian’s surgery, Jacqueline and Dani experienced as much as they could as new parents. The nurses who were with them the first time they changed, fed and held Ian stood out most to Jacqueline.“Those are good and sad memories at the same time,” Jacqueline said. “It’s still emotional looking at the pictures we took then.”

When he was just 11 days old, Ian underwent open heart surgery. “I didn’t know what to expect,” Jacqueline said. “But once Ian went into surgery, we were so calm and we were so sure everything was going to be okay. It was a really awesome feeling to have.”

Dr. Hanfland was one of two surgeons who constructed a separate conduit to carry blood from Ian’s heart to his lungs. Ian recovered quicker than expected and went home three weeks following surgery.

The Right Time to Return

During a recent impromptu visit to the NICU at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital  while at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, Jacqueline asked a staff member something that had been on her mind for years. Could her family come back and thank the nurses, staff and physicians who helped Ian? “I thought it would be a good idea to go back and say thank you for everything they did for him,” Jacqueline said. “The nurse said that the hospital loves it when patients come back to visit.”

She followed up with a phone call to Children’s Heart Center.   “It was a touching moment to hear Jacqueline say she wanted to celebrate Ian’s third birthday by thanking our team for taking care of him as a newborn,” Sam said.

Ian’s Birthday Gift to the Staff

For his return visit, Ian was dressed for the occasion, wearing a navy blue neck tie that rested perfectly on his button-down shirt –high fashion for a boy his age. Despite his fancy clothes,  he zipped around and played like a typical, healthy toddler as he waited to meet Dr. Hanfland and Sam.

“It was a joy and blessing for our team to watch Ian run around and laugh and play in the same waiting room where his parents waited during his newborn surgery,” Sam said. “It was true validation our team makes a difference, and I am honored that they chose to remember us on his birthday.”

The Siscos walked with Dr. Hanfland and Sam to the room where Ian had stayed, and were now able to look back on  a trying time for their family with a smile.

After the Siscos left the hospital, Ian spent the better part of his birthday at the nearby Houston Zoo, enamored with elephants and longhorns. But his presence was still felt at the hospital after he had left.

“Seeing kids long-term after heart surgery is a too infrequent treat,” Dr. Hanfland said. “As I told Ian’s family, it is much more fun to see kids when they aren’t admitted to the hospital. I am so glad they stopped by.”

To learn more about children’s heart care, click here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.