Awareness Project, James Wadman
Keep up with this story in real time by following Pink 4 Paul on facebook.
Inspiration is the light that motivates us to take steps toward hope, ambition, and ultimately, our destiny. If we close our eyes we might miss it, but when we look and listen, we see that inspiration can come from even the most unlikely of people and places. This is the story of how a three-year-old child and his family played a role in inspiring my vision for this project and my future in medicine.
Paul Melchiorre was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, or HLHS, to loving parents which is a congenital heart defect characterized by an underdeveloped aorta and left ventricle (learn more here). This defect can reduce or inhibit the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body, meaning peripheral organs and extremities cannot get the oxygen they need to survive without medical intervention. A child born with HLHS must undergo several surgeries early on in life simply just to survive so that subsequent measures can be taken at the proper time to improve the quality of life.
Congenital defects arise from the complexity and fragility of embryonic development. With current health and ethical standards, the treatment is there but the prevention is far from being understood. The underlying genetic causes for various defects range in complexity, from identifiable Mendelian inheritance in DNA to the more complicated temporal and spatial expression patterns of RNA during critical periods of development, so we must wholeheartedly respect the research necessary to overcome these biological anomalies.
To fully discuss the science of these defects could take all day; however, there is a greater story here of courage, resilience, and medical miracles. What is most incredible to me is the fight of babies and children just like Paul who must endure a fight for their lives everyday, just to see the next. These children serve as examples of strength for all of us, and it gives a reason for people like me to fight in my education and my status as a future medical practitioner so that I can protect our future children in the coming generations. And if you are anyone far removed from the biological sciences or the medical world, I hope you can also find inspiration in Paul’s fight.
In April, Paul underwent a heart transplant, where he battled on the operation table, in the ICU, and in recovery at the hospital for weeks. I say now, overjoyed, that he is home, smiling, and happy as ever. One should not underestimate how fragile the life of an embryo or a young child can be – but one must never underestimate the strength of a child and the love for a family who will go to the end of the earth to create miracles.
I am so fortunate to call the Melchiorre’s family, and I wish them all the best every single day. As part of my Awareness Project, I want to offer a few ways to keep up with them, including facebook and their blog.