We are Mike Dobson and Ali Fitzpatrick, proud parents of three-year-old Isla Dobson of Liverpool, U.K., and this is our story.
When Ali became pregnant back in 2010 with Isla, we found out at 16 weeks of pregnancy that our baby had a heart defect, possibly an atrioventricular septal defect, or AVSD. Towards the end of the pregnancy, Ali went for a scan at a hospital in England, where they diagnosed a complete AVSD — which the hospital said they could likely repair in a single surgery.
Ali and I were thrilled when Isla was born on June 15, 2011. Thankfully, there were no issues at birth, and Isla had many regular visits to her cardiologist in Liverpool.
But when she was about 6 months old, the hospital decided it would be the best time for Isla’s surgery. As you can imagine, Ali and I were devastated when the surgery did not go well. The doctors discovered a lot more complications in Isla’s heart, and she was in an extremely critical condition. They even had to undo the entire repair they had performed on our daughter’s heart and fit a PA band.
Frustrated by a lack of progress, Ali started researching heart surgeons around the world through different forums and websites. The name that kept popping up was Dr. Frank Hanley, a pediatric heart surgeon at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. By this time, Isla was 2½ years old and doing OK, but the hospital in England still did not have a good solution as to how to correct her heart defects.
Ali contacted Dr. Hanley in September, 2013. At his request, we sent across all of Isla’s medical records from the UK. Dr. Hanley wrote back a couple of weeks later telling us that he was confident he could carry out a “full repair with a high degree of success.”
This was the best news in the world for us. We couldn’t believe how positive and confident Dr. Hanley was. We were also in touch with cardiologist Dr. Stafford Grady at Stanford. He was also extremely positive and welcoming. He really cared and understood that we had nearly lost Isla during her first surgery, and he took so much time to reassure us. There really was no decision to be made. It was clear for us and our families that Isla needed to be operated on by Dr. Hanley.
We travelled to California at the beginning of March, 2014. First, we took Isla to Disneyland for a week as a nice treat. Then, we flew up to San Francisco and after a few days of pre-op tests and scans, Isla had her surgery with Dr. Hanley on March 14 at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. We were given regular updates during her surgery, and Dr. Grady also gave us so much support. Dr. Hanley came to see us before he went into the operating room, and we will never forget his words of encouragement and support. He spoke to us as soon as he came out of surgery and told us that everything had gone very well, and he was very pleased with the outcome. This was without a doubt the best day of our lives, and something we never thought would happen!
Three weeks later, after a full recovery, we left the hospital with Isla. After a week of seeing San Francisco, we flew back to the UK and haven’t been happier as a family since!
Isla had her 3rd birthday this past June, shortly after we got back to UK, Ali and I threw a big party to celebrate both her birthday and the success of Dr. Hanley’s surgery.
We are thankful beyond words to Dr. Hanley, Dr. Grady, Dr. Chris Weiss, Fiorenza Lukas from International Medical Services, all the OR and nurse staff, all the CVICU & 3 West Doctors & nurses (especially Dr. Weiss) and Jeanie Liang from Child Life. They were all amazing! The hospital was lovely and the care was outstanding, everything we could have hoped for. We think about all these special people often and how much they have impacted our lives, especially Dr. Hanley, who is just a miracle man in our eyes!
Discover more about our Pediatric Heart Program or call (650) 721-2121.