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Toddler finds hope in rare surgery

A Dublin family's lengthy struggle to secure a healthy future for their 18-month-old ailing daughter suffering from esophageal atresia - a rare disorder in which her esophagus is too short to reach her stomach - finally reaches a happy end.
Last modified: 16 May 2012 08:45
When I first met 18-month-old Elie Madden she was nearing the end of a medical journey that brought her and her family from Ireland to Boston. Physically and emotionally, this was a trip of epic proportions.
Elie was born with nearly six centimetres of her esophagus missing. That's right. Not there. She couldn't eat, drink or breathe on her own.

Doctors in Dublin, and truthfully, most doctors around the world couldn't help her in a way that would make her free of sickness, surgeries and complications that would likely end her life much too soon. But Elie's parents, Eddie and Esti, were determined.  

Eddie told me that no matter what, they were going to do the best they could for their daughter and in the end, if things didn't go their way, they would know in their hearts - and Elie would know too - that they did everything they could.
 
The family petitioned the Irish government to bring them and their little daughter to the states, specifically to Boston Children's Hospital.

It is there that two of only a handful of surgeons in the world have had the most success fixing Elie's condition. For the first time in the history of Ireland, the government's official jet was used to transport a family for a medical emergency.

Friends and strangers rallied around them. They hosted fund raisers, held events and started a website ... all to raise money and emotional support for the Madden's. Elie's story is emotional, personal and inspiring. The Maddens are now using their experience and the personal video and photo journal they created along the way, to give other families hope.   

I was there with them the day they checked out of the hospital, five months after arriving. And as they left, another family from Ireland arrived with a son who had the same condition as Elie. The little boy would have the same surgeon, same nurses and same treatment.  

And thankfully, the same hope.