A day at the Necker-Enfants Malades hospital, a temple of pediatric excellence in the face of the crisis: “Look at our misery”


The drop of water falling from the dilapidated ceiling is sometimes the only sound in the room, the atmosphere is so charged as Professor Raisky describes the upcoming operation to the parents. In two weeks, their daughter Marine (all first names have been changed), 8 years old, will benefit from a Potts intervention ». “It’s the only operation that I fear in the operating room, it is dangerous, with a significant mortality, of 15% to 20%, while the mortality in the department is 1% to 2%”the heart surgeon explains to them.

Doctors from the team of surgeon Olivier Raisky at the end of a large vessel transposition operation on a 5-day-old baby, in the operating theater of the Necker-Enfants Malades hospital, in Paris, November 7, 2023.

Installed in his office in the Laennec building, at the Necker-Enfants Malades hospital, in Paris, he also makes this clear from the outset, he who knows this extremely rare type of surgery well: “On the other hand, when it works well, it works real miracles. » With 1,200 operations per year, the istance publique-Hôpitaux de Paris establishment is the leading pediatric cardiac surgery center in France. And even from Europe.

The feet under the dad’s seat cross and uncross discreetly, while the mother silently wipes her eyes, hanging on each sentence spoken. If the specialist suggests this operation, it is because the natural evolution in these children suffering from a very rare lung disease is not good. But he must warn, there will be a critical moment “where he will no longer have control”while the page of blood through the pulmonary artery will be interrupted.

A few meters further, Marine is playing in the secretary’s office, where she was quickly sent at the start of the meeting, with lots of cuddly toys. Nothing that could suggest the seriousness of the situation for the brown head. It is this positive aspect that the surgeon also highlights, after the torrent of distressing data: Marine has the right size and she seems in good shape, he insists. The mother finally takes a breath. Behind her, several bags show the journey made by the family, originally from Rhône-Alpes. Like almost half of the small patients treated in the Parisian department, who come from other regions.

“I’d rather hit you on the head so you’re prepared, but today I think it’s his best choice, his best chance.”specifies the doctor, before showing where the postoperative scar will be located, completing the consultation. “She said she didn’t want a scar.”, tries to tell the mother with a smile, before finding her daughter. And let the countdown begin. “It’s okay, she won’t see that I cried? »

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