Our Stories

Read inspiring stories of hope from patients and families treated at Nicklaus Children's Hospital.

Read inspiring stories of hope from patients and families treated at Nicklaus Children's Hospital.

Theodore | March 2018 Theodore | March 2018

When she was just 18 weeks pregnant, Micheleen, learned that her baby would be born with a congenital heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), in which the left side of the heart is severely underdeveloped, as well as a cleft palate and cleft lip. A resident of North Florida, Micheleen and her fiance, Tyler, researched surgeons and hospitals that could treat their baby's condition, and landed on Nicklaus Children's Hospital, a nearly 10-hour drive from home.

Baby Theodore (or Tad, for short), was born in Miami a few weeks early and was brought to Nicklaus Children's by our LifeFlight team. At just 3-days-old, Tad had his first open heart surgery. At just 4-months, old, Tad has had several complicated surgeries and procedures, but he keeps fighting.


Zachary, better known by his nickname, Lucky, was born five weeks early. He spent five weeks in the ICU and faced some developmental delays early on. He began physical therapy sessions when he was 2 years old, and after some time, his therapist noticed a knot on his back that didn’t appear to be muscular in nature.

Lucky’s pediatrician recommended he see the spine specialists at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. Lucky and his family met with Harry L. Shufflebarger, M.D. the Director of the Division of Spinal Surgery. Dr. Shufflebarger and his team found that Lucky had a severe deformity of the thoracic spine, known as congenital kyphoscoliosis.

From the time he was two-year-old until now at age 10, Lucky has had four surgeries to help straighten his spine. One year ago, he spent eight weeks in halo traction, followed by an 11-hour surgery.

Throughout the entire process, Lucky has never complained and remained positive. Today he is a happy, charismatic and curious child who loves riding his bike, kayaking, playing tennis and hiking with his parents. Read below for Lucky’s story, written in his own, unedited words.


Meet Victoria, our June Patient of the Month! Before birth, Victoria, was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). Hypoplastic left heart syndrome is a type of congenital heart defect that affects normal blood flow through the heart.

While Victoria's mother was pregnant with her, the left side of her heart did not form correctly, causing an urgent need for surgery just after birth to help restore its function, or Victoria would die. At only five days old, she underwent surgery, followed by an additional three procedures to keep her alive.

Fast-forward to today, and Victoria, now a teenager, is leading a healthy life with her family in South Florida. She enjoys music and playing basketball with her siblings.


The moment Justin was born, his mother and father were faced with the most daunting and challenging experience any parent can imagine. Just hours after birth, Justin was airlifted to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital for more specialized pediatric care. Having been diagnosed with pulmonary atresia and tetralogy of Fallot, he required immediate attention before it was too late.

Fast forward 13 years later, and Justin is still receiving the same quality care from the exact same team who received him in the NICU the day he was born. From reconstructive surgery to multiple catheterizations and constant follow-ups, Dr. Redmond Burke, pediatric cardiac surgeon, Dr. Danielle Madril, pediatric cardiac anesthesiologist, and his core team at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital have been there every step of the way.


What began as a routine checkup during her 36th week of pregnancy, turned out to be a surprisingly daunting diagnosis for Sylvia, and her unborn baby, Luis Fernando, nicknamed Luife.

While he was still inside his mother’s womb, Luife was diagnosed with transposition of the great arteries, a congenital heart defect, where the large vessels that carry blood from the heart to the lungs and to the body, were improperly connected. His heart, as described by Redmond Burke M.D., Director of Cardiovascular Surgery at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, was like a “jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces put together backwards.”
Sylvia was living in Venezuela and her doctors recommended she seek treatment in Miami. Shortly after birth, Luife was taken by ambulance to the cardiac team at Nicklaus Children’s.


When Mateo was just two years old, his parents were shocked to discover that their toddler developed leukemia. They met with the hematology and oncology specialists at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital and began a treatment protocol that brought Mateo back to health—along with some entertainment from his spirited little sister! Mateo, now 10, is a healthy, typical kid who loves running around with his friends.


Following an emergency C-section, Gabriela’s mother, Katherine, was shocked to see that her new baby was missing part of her face. Gabriela was born with a cleft lip and palate.

Katherine researched for hours to find the best doctors to fix her daughter’s condition and came upon the craniofacial team at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. She knew Nicklaus Children’s was the right place for her baby daughter and entrusted her in the care of S. Anthony Wolfe, MD, Mislen Bauer, MD, and Marta Mejia, MD.
Gabriela had two surgeries at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital by the time she was 18 months old, and after her second surgery, her mother said it was like the doctors handed her a whole “new baby.”


After surviving a high-risk pregnancy with a set of twins, the Strombom’s were faced with yet another complication. Their third child, an unborn baby named Charlie, was diagnosed with a congenital pulmonary airway malformation (CPAM) and underwent two in utero interventions to allow for a full and healthy gestation period. Once delivered, the LifeFlight team from Nicklaus Children’s Hospital was on stand-by to transport Charlie from West Palm Beach to Miami.

At just a few days old, Charlie underwent surgery at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital to correct the anomaly by removing part of his right lung. Without the thoracotomy, Charlie only had a 5 percent chance of survival. Although the Strombom's had to adapt to some changes and limit the things Charlie can do and be exposed to, they are extremely grateful for the specialists and care received at Nicklaus Children's Hospital.

Today, Charlie is a six-month-old healthy baby and the pride and joy of the Strombom's this holiday season.