For the first time in her life and on day 118 of her stay at the Children’s Hospital in Boston, little Elie Madden has been able to breathe without the aid of a ventilator.
Elie, born a twin to sister Emie on October 6, 2010, has a condition called Tracheo-Oesophageal Fistula with Long Gap Oesophageal Atresia, which means her esophagus does not connect to her stomach. To date this has had the effect of making the most basic of human functions - like breathing, swallowing and eating - impossible.
Her parents, Dubliner Eddie and Polish-born Esti, made the decision to bring Elie over to Boston because of a special method employed at the Children’s Hospital for treating this condition, called the Foker technique. This revolutionary process involves growing the end of the esophagus and the entrance to the stomach until they can be surgically sewn together.
“Dr. John Foker, who invented this technique, came out of retirement to help with Elie’s case,” Eddie Madden told The Irish Emigrant. “It was a big bonus for us to have the man who invented this technique personally assist with Elie.”
While having Dr. Foker present was beneficial, Elie still had some hard times ahead, including being put into an induced coma which lasted 38 days. In addition to the coma, Elie has undergone ten surgeries which each lasted anywhere from nine to eleven hours, according to Eddie. He said he regards all of the doctors at the Children’s Hospital as “saintly” for their dedication to his daughter.
“These doctors treat their job like a vocation,” he said. “They are angels. Honestly, I cannot say enough about them. They are brilliant.”
Likewise, Eddie and Esti have also been brilliant in their support of Elie. Esti, and Elie’s twin sister, Emie, have been staying in Boston with Esti’s mother, who came over from Poland to be with her family during this time. Eddie has to continue to work in Dublin but still makes time to see his family, either in person or by Skype.
Elie first had her esophagus attached to her stomach around Christmas, but there were still complications to deal with. Her most recent surgery involved repairing her airway and the removal of her breathing tube, which led to the March 23 milestone of her finally breathing without a machine.
According to Eddie, there should not be any more operations on the horizon; the next steps for Elie will all involve therapy to help her learn how to breathe and swallow.
Back in Ireland, the Madden family has a host of charity events planned for the coming months that will help pay for living costs while they stay in Boston. These include a Zumba Fitness Marathon at Shoreline Leisure in Greystones, Wicklow on March 27; a golf event at the Swords Open Golf Course in Fingal on April 14; and a horse race at the Raheny Football Club in Dublin on May 5. There will also be a “Play Time Fundraiser” for Elie at the KidZone in Swords, Dublin on March 28.
“Hopefully we have a success story when she comes home,” Eddie said.