The faces said it all. In that front-page picture by The News & Observer’s Harry Lynch were Evan and Suzanne Dapo and Dr. J. David Hoover, a pediatric surgeon at WakeMed, all smiling just as big as could be.
And then there was Annalise. Oh, yes, Annalise, the precious 8-week-old on the bottle.
Annalise was born with a partially missing esophagus or food pipe. The treatment for the condition normally is surgery to fuse the separated parts of the esophagus, followed by weeks of sedation and months of hospitalization.
Annalise, however, was headed home by the end of last weekend.
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Her story is one hard to describe in terms of its meaning. Once in a while, however, we all need a story like hers just to make us feel good.
What Hoover did was to use magnets to bring Annalise’s esophagus together. He had read about the procedure in a medical journal and got in touch with its inventor, Dr. Mario Zaritzky, at the University of Chicago. Zaritzky came to Raleigh to advise WakeMed’s team on the procedure.
It was the first nonsurgical fusion of the esophagus in the United States.
“This is like a miracle,” said Dr. Duncan Phillips, WakeMed’s director of pediatric surgery. “I’ve been doing this for 19 years, and I have never seen anything like this.”
Annalise, for her part, will have to read about her little miracle some years hence. For now, she’s healthy and growing and a joy to her parents. And her problem and the solution to it doubtless will mean other doctors around the country will learn and use the magnet procedure, saving many more children the risky and long-treatment option of surgery.
The device that Zaritzky invented, by the way, is manufactured in Winston-Salem, making the endeavor at WakeMed very much a North Carolina-born event.
It also happens to be, yes, one of those stories ...