Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Real Hospital Drama

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Real Hospital Drama

Article excerpt


In February 2011, Megan and Roderick Gammon of West Milford learned that their 4-year-old daughter Petra needed heart surgery immediately. A cardiac tumor that doctors had been monitoring since Petra was 4 months old was suddenly causing life-threatening arrhythmia.

The news was delivered by Dr. Jan Quaegebeur, a world-famous pediatric heart surgeon who goes by "Dr. Q." He performed the successful surgery -- which is featured tonight on ABC News' "NY Med" -- on March 30, 2011 at New York-Presbyterian's Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital.

"They had originally thought that her tumor was the size of an acorn. It was the size of a golf ball. So we were really lucky," says Megan Gammon, recalling the exchange she had with arrhythmia specialist Dr. Leonardo Liberman at Columbia a few months after the surgery. "I asked, 'Well, what if we had waited?' And he said, 'She wouldn't be here.' "

The ABC News filmmakers approached the Gammons on the very day they discovered their daughter needed surgery.

"They asked if they could film our family and film Petra's surgery. We thought like, sure, why not?" Gammon says. "It's not that I want people to see my daughter on TV. I want them to know exactly what she went through and that there is this fantastic resource very close to home.

"We were so lucky that we live in North Jersey, that we live an hour away from the No. 1 hospital for this [and the] best doctor. It's a crummy situation, but we were extraordinarily lucky to have all this at our fingertips."

In a one-hour episode that features a number of stories, "NY Med" producers could never capture one patient's entire dramatic tale. But Gammon shares it on this recent day.

"Petra was born with a heart murmur, and in the grand scheme of things, it was not a very big deal," she says. "We saw the cardiologist and four months later, her heart murmur cleared up."

But in order to be released from the care of Paramus pediatric cardiologist Dr. Howard Apfel, Petra needed to have more tests, and her EKG was "wildly wrong," her mom says.

The Gammons took Petra to Columbia Presbyterian.

'Just a small lesion'

"They said, 'Oh, it's just a small lesion on her heart that's putting pressure on it," she recalls, adding that the doctors thought that the lesion would stay the same size, but the heart would get bigger, so there wouldn't be a problem. …

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