The Incredible Story of Luca
When Luca was just a week old he had labored breathing in the hospital. Luca’s mom gave birth by caesarean section and the doctors – not here at Loma Linda, but at another hospital – thought he would get well when the family took him home.
But the very next day, he suddenly turned limp and unresponsive and his color paled to a sickening blue.
Desperate to save their son, Luca’s mom and dad raced him to a local emergency department where physicians stabilized his breathing and attempted to determine the cause of his trauma. They eventually diagnosed him with a condition called coarctation of the aorta.
Coarctation means Baby Luca was born with significant narrowing of the main artery of his body. As a result, he wasn’t getting adequate blood flow to his lungs and other vital organs. In addition, he also had ventricular septal defect or VSD.“Basically, that means he had holes in his heart,” his mom Mary explains.
Once the diagnosis was made, doctors at the local facility transferred Luca to Loma Linda University Children’s
Hospital where he was admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Celebrated pediatric cardiothoracic
surgeon Leonard L. Bailey, MD, evaluated Luca’s condition and set a date for open heart surgery.
“Luca spent about a week in the NICU, before the surgery,” Mary shares, noting that she and Brian, Luca’s dad,
consider Bailey “an amazing surgeon.”
Mary kept vigil at Luca’s bedside night and day, leaving only for a few short hours to sleep in her car when she
couldn’t keep going. “I didn’t eat, I didn’t drink,” she recalls. “I didn’t even talk to anyone. Our priest was here every
day checking on him. It was very hard for me.”
In addition to the faithful priest, the NICU staff closely monitored Luca’s condition until the morning of July 11, 2009,
when they wheeled him into the operating room.
Mary and Brian awaited the results with that ironic, contradictory mixture of faith and fear, prayer and anxiety that
parents of children with life-threatening conditions know all too well.
“He was still in heart failure after surgery,” Mary reveals. “It took a while to get it under control, but they finally did and he spent another three weeks here on a feeding tube.”
Fortunately, a month after he was admitted, Luca finally got to go home with his mom and dad. “He had a good
recovery,” Mary reports. “He did very well under my care and training.” Even so, it still took five months for Luca to
start eating on his own. He had to relearn how to suck and swallow, but once he got it, he kept on eating on his own
and recovering from the significant trauma that almost took his life.
Today, nine years after the procedure, Luca continues to do very well. He sees his cardiologist once a year and
even though there is a slight possibility of some scar tissue growing around the site of the repairs to his heart —
and another slight possibility of the repair area itself collapsing — Mary reports that he is out of the danger zone.
“If there is a problem,” she adds, “it will develop gradually so they can catch it in time.” Luca is busy making plans for
the future. “I plan to be a baseball player when I grow up,” he shared. “Just like Mike Trout.”
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