Lorenzo’s Journey to the Heart Institute at UPMC Children’s

Lorenzo Gallagher

At a 20-week ultrasound appointment for their baby boy in Jan. 2022, Megan and her husband, Philip, received heartbreaking news.

“The doctor diagnosed Lorenzo with HLHS,” says Megan. “They told us there wasn’t a chance he would make it. It was traumatic.”

Hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) is a congenital heart defect that affects the left side of the heart. As the baby develops during pregnancy, the left side of the heart does not form correctly, which disrupts normal blood flow through the heart.

Megan was determined to find another option and give Lorenzo the best chance at life. She talked with a close friend, a local cardiologist, about their situation. He recommended that the family meet with Sunil Patel, MD, a pediatric cardiologist and adult congenital heart disease specialist at UPMC Harrisburg.

“Within two days, we had an appointment with Dr. Patel,” says Megan. “He reassured us that Lorenzo would be okay and could undergo treatment for his heart condition. Dr. Patel was great, he answered all of our questions and told us real stories of people who are living with HLHS, which was really reassuring.”

Lorenzo GallagherDr. Patel contacted the team at the Heart Institute, part of UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, to arrange a video appointment with Lorenzo’s family and Victor Morell, MD, chief of the Division of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery at UPMC Children’s and co-director of the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute. 

“We spoke with Dr. Morell about Lorenzo’s diagnosis,” says Megan. “He and Dr. Patel worked together to create a plan for my delivery in Pittsburgh.”

In the coming weeks, Megan saw Dr. Patel for regular appointments to monitor her baby’s health. After each appointment, Dr. Patel would contact the team in Pittsburgh to discuss Lorenzo’s condition. The team recommended that Megan and Philip move to Pittsburgh a month before Lorenzo was due so that she could be close to the team at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, where she would deliver her son.

UPMC is home to a network of physicians and experts who work across multiple campuses to support patients. This collaborative effort between UPMC Harrisburg, Magee-Womens Hospital, and UPMC Children’s provides comprehensive care to parents and their patients in every stage. 

“Days before we were supposed to move to Pittsburgh, I went into labor,” says Megan. “Philip and I went to a local hospital in Harrisburg, where they were going to fly us to Pittsburgh. But there was a terrible storm, so we ended up driving instead. My doctor called me every 30 minutes to make sure I was okay.”

Megan and Philip arrived at Magee-Womens Hospital and on May 7, Lorenzo was born. He was transported to UPMC Children’s for his next stage in care with the team at the Heart Institute.

Just days after Lorenzo was born, he underwent open heart surgery with Dr. Morell, Mario Castro-Medina, MD, and Luciana da Fonseca da Silva, MD, two pediatric and adult cardiothoracic surgeons at UPMC Children’s. He spent the next few months recovering under close supervision by the team.

“We spent more than 100 days in the hospital with Lorenzo,” says Megan. “While we were in Pittsburgh, we stayed at the Ronald McDonald House. It was great, it really felt like a mini apartment with a kitchen and laundry area. It’s attached to the hospital so we could conveniently go back and forth to see Lorenzo.”

Megan and Philip spent countless hours with the team at UPMC Children’s and are thankful for their support.

“The entire team at UPMC Children’s was so nice,” says Megan. “They’re with you for all of the different milestones, good or bad. They become like your family.”

Lorenzo GallagherIn August, Lorenzo underwent the Glenn procedure to redirect blood flow from his upper body directly to his lungs. After Lorenzo recovered, Megan and Philip took their son back home to Harrisburg.

“When we went home, it was an adjustment,” says Megan. “Lorenzo loves being home. He loves his dogs and being outside. We went to the beach after Lorenzo was discharged, and he really enjoyed it.”

Now, Lorenzo and his parents see Dr. Patel every three months to monitor his condition. Dr. Patel continually communicates with the team in Pittsburgh about Lorenzo’s health.

“We’re so thankful for the entire team,” says Megan. “We wouldn’t choose anyone else for Lorenzo’s care.”

Lorenzo’s treatment and results may not be representative of similar cases.