BETHLEHEM — After having open-heart surgery performed on him in September by some of the county’s best cardiovascular surgeons at Boston Children’s Hospital, 3-year-old Emmett Hotaling has a new lease on life.
“Emmett is like a completely different boy,” said his mother Jessica Hotaling, with husband Wesley. “The doctors literally call him a miracle.”
Emmett Hotaling was born with a heart that was, essentially, flipped – all the ventricles and heart chambers in place, only in the exact opposite position from where they should have been.
The parents learned of their son’s condition when Jessica was six months pregnant. She was only 20 years when she and Wesley, then 22, were told about Emmett’s condition and the lifetime of surgeries they would have to prepare for. Emmett’s first surgery was completed at Albany Medical Center when he was only 6 months old.
His Boston surgery was his next, and originally called for more minor repairs to be made to his heart. Doctors warned throughout that Emmett would need many more surgeries over the next decades of his life.
Yet, once on the operating table, given the choice between yet another minor surgery and a more major reparative surgery, Emmett’s surgeon chose the latter in an operation-time decision, using a method the specialist had performed many times for the rare condition.
With the major surgery completed years and years earlier than doctors elsewhere had told the Hotalings, Emmett is now looking at a brighter prognosis than ever imagined. He may never need a heart surgery again.
Following up with the family, whom Spotlight News reported on in August 2015, the parents are happy to report that all is well in the Hotaling household, after a nerve wracking stay in Boston.
An eight-hour surgery was followed by hours of sedation. Then there was weeks of recovery, during which the family stayed in a Boston hotel. The Hotalings are now grateful for the outpouring of love and support they received and especially for the online fundraising campaign family members set up through GoFundMe. The campaign raised thousands of dollars, which helped cover travel expenses – covering the costs of their hotel stay almost exactly.
“We were amazed in the hospital how immediate his recovery was,” said Jessica. “You could tell even right after the surgery, just with his breathing – he was getting so much more air, and he just loved it,” said Wesley.
Where before his surgery Emmett could barely run or participate in any normal childhood activities for fear of extreme physical exhaustion, he now runs with energy that outpaces even his parents.
“We can barely keep up with him now,” said the mother. Emmett was an extremely calm boy before the surgery: often tired; a difficult sleeper, who wanted to play with others, but knew he could not physically. Now, Emmett runs laps around their Ravena household playing with balls and other toys the parents had formerly kept secret from him, in efforts to shelter him from knowing what he was missing.
A play stethoscope is the 3 year-old’s new favorite toy, now that he is no longer afraid of his once-weekly doctor’s visits. Watching him play T-ball, ride bicycles and play with friends for the first time has been the parents’ biggest joy. A trip to the beach has even been planned, which before seemed near impossible.
“I would never have taken him out of the Capital Region before,” for fear of being too far from doctors, said Jessica. Several times each week she and Wes would take Emmett to planned doctor’s appointments and unplanned ones, which cropped up often, as even the most minor cold would leave Emmett winded and vulnerable to exhaustion. These doctors visits have now been cut down to once every six months. And, in five years, Emmett will need an incision surgery to replace his heart monitor’s battery.
With the majority of their struggles now behind them, Macaione feels nothing but gratitude and relief for her boy’s newfound good health. “It feels like bricks were lifted from my shoulder – huge bricks,” said the mother.