When Irina and her husband first learned their infant daughter had a serious health condition, they immediately began researching the best doctors and surgeons to care for her, both in their home in Romania and around the world.
“From the research we were doing, it became clear that in order to give her the best chance to have a normal life we needed to find a doctor that was highly experienced in dealing with her condition,” Irina writes. “We identified one of the world leading experts in this field. He had written the most research and led efforts to train doctors around the world in the latest treatment methods.”
The surgeon they identified was Marc Levitt, M.D., chief of Colorectal & Pelvic Reconstruction at Children’s National Hospital. Irina emailed him for advice, and he personally responded, beginning a dialogue that continued for nearly a year about the specifics of their case and how best to treat their little girl.
Ultimately, he advised that, based on their daughter’s specific condition, the best course of action was to have the family travel the 5,000 miles from Romania to Washington for him to personally perform the surgery.
"Each case is different," says Dr. Levitt. "If I am confident that the family can get all of the care they need closer to home, that’s what I’ll recommend. In this case, I felt that Irina’s daughter would benefit from having her primary surgery done here by me and my team."
So, Irina’s family began planning the financial details and logistics for bringing their 8-month-old baby girl to Washington for surgery.
“Our family and friends (old and new) helped us immensely,” she writes. “We are forever grateful to all of them for helping us give our baby her best chance.”
The clinical team in Washington also helped.
“Dr. Levitt and his team at Children's National were very helpful in assessing and explaining everything that was needed to make the surgery happen and even troubleshooting when we hit bumps in the road,” she notes.
One major bump was the global COVID-19 pandemic. Safety measures restricting passports and visas in both countries made international travel extremely challenging. After compiling a significant amount of paperwork, however, the family was able to prove their need to come to the U.S. for treatment of their daughter’s medical emergency.
Unfortunately, before they could start their journey, Irina’s daughter suffered a major medical health complication.
“Her life was saved by the prompt and successful intervention of her wonderful doctors [in Romania] to whom we are extremely grateful,” Irina notes. After a month and a half of recovery from the emergency in Romania, the family re-started plans to travel to Dr. Levitt for the baby’s primary surgery.
Irina worked with her daughter’s Romanian medical team and the Children’s National surgical team to arrange for medical imaging and other needed pre-surgical studies to be done in Romania in advance in order to minimize medical costs and the time the family needed to spend away from home and family.
Though COVID-19 continued to cause headaches for family’s international travel, they arrived in Washington safely and underwent the last of their pre-surgical tests onsite, just days before their scheduled procedure. The journey was long and stressful, but once in Washington, everything went according to the well-laid plans.
During surgery, Dr. Levitt was able to complete the procedure using an innovative new approach he has developed. Irina’s daughter was expected to spend up to five days in the hospital but was well enough to be discharged the next day.
Out of the hospital and recovering comfortably in a nearby hotel three days after her surgery, Irina’s baby girl was smiling and waving happily, and even pulling herself up to standing so she could “cruise” around holding on to the hotel room coffee table.
“Somehow [Dr. Levitt] and his team managed to over-deliver [on] our already very high expectations. And Global Services helped a lot in making things go as smoothly as possible logistically,” Irina says. “We are thrilled with our experience here, and with our baby's surgery result. She feels happy and energetic and was in almost no pain soon after surgery.”
Irina and her family left the U.S. two weeks after their arrival to complete her recovery at home. Her Romanian care team will perform one final, smaller surgery to complete her correction process. The family will also have a final surgical follow up with Dr. Levitt’s team via a telehealth visit soon.
Reflecting on their experience, Irina concludes, “We are convinced that her future quality of life was significantly improved. We are tremendously grateful to Dr Levitt and his team at Children's National for helping us make this happen."
At Children’s National Hospital, we provide compassionate, professional care to thousands of patients every year. Discover our patients' stories to understand their journey and see how it may relate to your own.