A first-person look at the heart of the Buzzi Hospital
My son Francesco came in to this world at Buzzi Hospital in 2008. Unfortunately, something for which I was entirely unprepared happened: his first postpartum exam revealed he had an esophageal atresia. His esophagus had a hole between the trachea and the stomach which prevented him from eating or even swallowing. It was a real shock: normally, this type of ab-normality is diagnosed during pregnancy, but Francesco had a rare form of atresia undetectable by ultrasound.
A difficult time
The chief physicians of Buzzi’s Pediatric Surgery operated on Francesco immediately, the day after the diagnosis, attempting to connect the two parts of the esophagus. The hole, however, was too big, and we were told another operation could not take place until he was at least 12 weeks old. Francesco spent the first month of waiting sedated in an incubator in the Neonatal ICU, and then we were able to bring him home, albeit connected to a ventilator 24 hours a day. As any parent could imagine, these weeks with our baby on a ventilator were truly difficult for us.
Finally, they called us for a check-in. It was time to see if the esophagus had grown sufficiently to be surgically repaired, and the answer was yes. They could do it. The operation went well, with no complications. Afterwards, Francesco had to spend another month in the Pediatric ICU under observation by the surgeon, Dr. Giorgio Selvaggio and by Dr. Ida Salvo, one of the most prominent figures in the Buzzi Foundation.
The worst clinical picture
But our problems weren’t over. Francesco was diagnosed with a neuroblastoma, a malignant tumor unrelated to his atresia. We began a course of chemotherapy, first at Buzzi and then at the Institute of Tumors, that lasted a year. Fortunately, his cancer was not regressive, but it led to complications because, since it was located in his kidney, the tumor had damaged the liver. Completing a course of chemo with a 4-month-old was perhaps the most difficult chal-lenge of my life.
In 2009, we began follow-up treatment at Buzzi Hospital both for the atresia (which in the meantime had improved greatly: Francesco could eat on his own without a feeding tube) and for the cancer. The first two years passed, and we slowly began to come out of the woods. Now, Francesco can eat everything. We still have check-ups, but infrequently. All we do is a non-invasive ultrasound and bloodwork once a year.
Treatment and a companion through treatment
Emerging victorious from an exceptional case of atresia and the unrelated metastasized tumor is undoubtedly a great success for Francesco and for the doctors who treated him, for which I’ll never cease thanking them. At Buzzi, we found not only competent professionals, but also amazing people with whom we formed beautiful relationships. For years they embraced us, accompanied us, taught us how to manage each situation. I believe that finding such a high degree of attention to human relationships cannot be taken for granted.
Sometimes, I think that, despite the challenging health history that characterized his first few years of life, Francesco is a lucky boy. He had the good fortune to be born at Buzzi, to be treated in the best children’s hospital, so that today he can live a normal life, like every other child his age.