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Sarah from Kitchener ON

The following letter was sent to Neil Saran, M.D., Orthopaedic Surgeon at Shriners Hospitals for Children® - Canada and The Montreal Children’s Hospital.


Dear Dr. Saran,

Once in a while in a person’s lifetime, someone comes into their life who is a very special person. To our family, you are that person.

We thank God every day that we found you – our hero- for what you have done for Sarah and for the courage that you showed in proceeding with the surgeries that I know, saved Sarah’s life.

Ever since Sarah was born almost twelve years ago, I have been told by doctors that she was going to die very soon. It has been very difficult to face this but somehow we have all found the strength to carry on. Even up until the time that we left our community of Kitchener-Waterloo to come to Montreal, doctors were very pessimistic. I was devastated but I put all my faith in you to do the best that you could. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect your plans and ground breaking procedures to have the fantastic outcome that it has.

Sarah is a different child now and most certainly I feel I have my granddaughter back; smiling, laughing and enjoying life instead of lying in her bed crying day and night is the best gift ever.

I don’t know how else to say a Big Thank You from the bottom of my heart to everyone at Shriners Hospitals for Children-Canada and at the Montreal Children’s Hospital for the surgery but most of all to you Dr. Saran for all of your expertise, care and compassion. Our family is indebted to you forever.

Sarah’s grandmother, Claire

Sarah’s Story

In February 2011, Sarah and her mother Christina came to see Neil Saran, M.D., at Shriners Hospitals for Children-Canada. They travelled from Kitchener (Ontario). This visit was their last hope. Sarah wasn’t able to say long sentences because she was short of breath. Instead of growing, Sarah was regressing, her quality of life vanishing due to her progressive muscular atrophy and weakening lungs.

Sarah was diagnosed with a degenerative neuromuscular condition early in life. This is the root cause of her scoliosis (extreme curvature of her spine) compounding her diminished lung function. According to Dr. Saran, with such severe scoliosis and her underlying muscular weakness, her lungs would no longer have the capacity to expand and contract properly.

“Before coming to Montreal, we had been told repeatedly that nothing could be done. It wasn’t an easy visit. There was apprehension, desperation and tension. But after spending a short time in the hospital and feeling the compassion of the staff, trust made its way into our hearts’’ said Christina.

It was decided that surgery to straighten her spine would occur at the Montreal Children’s Hospital (MCH) due to her complex respiratory issues and her need for post-operative intensive care.

High Risk Surgery

“It was a delicate surgery and there were high risks involved. Sarah`s health was deteriorating and she could die if nothing was done for her. We needed to do something and couldn’t let her down. We felt that we could improve her quality of life. Understanding the risks of the procedure, we went ahead with the complete agreement of the family. Teaming up with my mentor, Jean A. Ouellet, M.D., and with my MCH colleagues in respiratory medicine, anesthesia and in the Pediatric Intensive Care together we embraced this tremendous challenge. It was a risk worth taking” said Dr. Saran.

“It was a very long day. When she went into the operating room I hoped and prayed for her to return to us, to be able to breathe on her own, to be our Sarah once more. Dr. Saran had given us hope, and that is what we held onto with all our might” remembers Christine.

The Second Surgery

In order to relieve Sarah from persistent pain to her left hip, Dr. Saran performed a second surgery 3 months after the first surgery.

“Before my surgeries, I couldn’t sit in my wheelchair more than a few minutes at a time and needed morphine every three hours to control my pain. After only three months, I am drug free and my lung function had doubled. I can sit in my chair all day at school, play on the computer and go shopping. I now have a life” reports a smiling Sarah.

“I know that I will never ever forget Sarah. The whole process was a special one and it created a bond between me and Sarah and her family. That is pretty amazing.” concluded Dr. Saran.