It was an overcast winter day in northeast Ohio – nothing unusual – with rain on and off but, as they were walking into Akron Children’s Hospital, Lisa and Sidney McLain realized this otherwise dreary day was also a milestone day.
Sidney, 17, had been coming to see Dr. Chandrakant Patel in Akron Children’s Heart Center since, well, before she was even born and this was her last visit to see him before graduating high school and going off to college.
A normal heart is shaped like a pretzel. One side of the knot becomes the pulmonary artery that will carry blood into the lungs where it picks up oxygen. The other side forms the aorta, through which red, oxygenated blood will be pumped into the body.
In Sidney’s tiny heart, the aorta and the pulmonary artery both originated from the right pumping chamber and the blood had no way to reach the lungs after birth.
Dr. Patel reassured Lisa and her husband, Pat, that Sidney would need 3 open-heart surgeries but could, otherwise, live a normal, healthy life.
The couple had received a less than optimistic prognosis elsewhere so Lisa and Pat considered a doctor’s recommendation to seek a second opinion from Dr. Patel to be a miracle. He performed a fetal echocardiogram on Lisa to assess Sidney’s heart, drew a picture of a normal heart and one with DORV and then mapped out a treatment plan.
“He was our second opinion, and we are so blessed to have been put on the path with him and to have him oversee Sidney’s care all of these years,” said Lisa. “You’ve heard of the phrase the ‘horse whisperer?’ Well, Dr. Patel is the ‘heart whisperer.’”
Sidney had open-heart surgeries at 4 days of age, 14 months of age and 4 years of age. She had a catheterization procedure 4 years ago.
Sidney’s congenital heart disease didn’t slow her down. She played softball for 13 years, has taken theater and dance lessons, and has been involved in school musicals and choir at Magnificat High School in Rocky River. She has also participated in leadership and service clubs.
“I am so lucky to have the level of care that I have had throughout my life and to be able to do things that I never thought I’d be able to do,” Sidney said. “I am grateful for my parents and my doctors for giving me constant support. I wouldn’t be here or have the life that I have without them.”
After graduation, she will head off to Bowling Green State University, where she plans to major in film studies and minor in forensic science.
“So much at Akron Children’s and in our lives has changed over the past 17 years,” said Lisa. “But I am so glad one thing hasn’t changed and that’s Dr. Patel.”