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Three-Year-Old Boy on the Road to Recovery from Heart Defect

Article / Review by on September 7, 2011 – 7:49 pmNo Comments

Three-Year-Old Boy on the Road to Recovery from Heart Defect

At 3-months-old, Charlie Levin wasn’t thriving like a normal baby. He was losing weight, constantly vomiting and breathing rapidly. After a chest X-ray in his hometown of Buffalo revealed an enlarged heart, Charlie was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Charlie’s left ventricle was underdeveloped and unable to pump sufficient blood to his body. The right ventricle had to work harder to pump blood, making it enlarge.

Three-Year-Old Boy on the Road to Recovery from Heart DefectCharlie was transported by ambulance from Buffalo to Golisano Children’s Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center, where George Alfieris, M.D., chief of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery, performed the first in a series of open-heart surgeries that saved his life.

“Most people don’t know that some of the heart babies from Buffalo, Syracuse and Erie, Pa. go to Rochester if they need surgery,” said Merredith Levin, Charlie’s mother.

Charlie stayed in the hospital for six weeks after undergoing his first surgery, which reduced the blood flow to Charlie’s lungs and re-routed the right ventricle to pump blood to his body. At 13-months-old, he went in for his second surgery, which re-routed the blood flowing back from the top third of Charlie’s body so that it went directly to his lungs. Charlie went into the second surgery healthy and strong, and only needed six days of recovery in the hospital. He went through physical therapy and occupational therapy after the surgeries and caught back up to where he should be. Charlie has two more surgeries ahead of him before he reaches kindergarten – one surgery to repair a leaky valve and another to re-route the blood flow from his lower body directly to his lungs.

“We all work together in Buffalo, Syracuse and Rochester to provide top-rate pediatric cardiovascular services to the kids of western New York,” Alfieris said.

Now, Charlie is pretty much like any normal 3-year-old boy, but his parents will never forget what he went through. His diagnosis inspired his parents, Ken and Merredith, to start Heart Works, a group that aims to extend and improve the lives of children with congenital heart disease.

Heart Works will be hosting its first fundraiser in East Amherst Saturday, Sept. 10, at the Transit Valley Country Club. An Evening with Heart Works will have live music, food, dancing and a silent auction. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased online at

Proceeds from the fundraiser will be split evenly between the American Heart Association (AHA) and Golisano Children’s Hospital. Levin wants to help fund research with AHA and help Golisano Children’s Hospital purchase new equipment for the Children’s Heart Center.

“Golisano Children’s Hospital saved Charlie’s life,” said Levin. “We hope the funds we raise will help other children get the chance to live a normal life, just like Charlie.”


George M. Alfieris, M.D.
George M. Alfieris, M.D. Bio.

University of Rochester
School of Medicine and Dentistry
601 Elmwood Ave., Box SURG
Rochester, NY 14642
Appointment: (585) 275-2735

> Patient Care Bio
Dr. George M. Alfieris, nationally recognized pediatric cardiac surgeon, is Director of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery at the Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong and Associate Professor of Surgery at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Dr. Alfieris has achieved the highest cardiac surgery survival rate in New York State for the most complex congenital heart diseases.

Dr. Alfieris is the only pediatric cardiac surgeon in the region and stresses a team approach to the care of infants and children.

Dr. Alfieris works closely with the Golisano Children’s Heart Center cardiologists, intensive care specialists, anesthesiologists, surgical nurse practitioners, child life specialists, patient care coordinators, nurses and a group of allied professionals to care for the patients and their families.

Patients are cared for in a new 12-bed state of the art pediatric cardiac intensive care unit. On the floor above, there is a special Ronald McDonald House to accommodate parents of children requiring intensive care. Special attention is given to families during this stressful time of surgery, and every effort is made to have parents be with their child as much as possible during the hospital stay.

> Education
MD | Medicine | Georgetown Univ Sch Medicine 1987
MS | Physiology | Georgetown University 1983
BA | Zoology | Rutgers State University 1982

> Specialties
Surgery – American Board of Surgery 
Thoracic Surgery (Cardiothoracic Vascular Surgery) – American Board of Thoracic Surgery

> Post-Doctoral Training & Residency
Residency in General Surgery at University of Rochester 09/01/1988 – 06/30/1992
Fellowship in Pediatric Cardiac Surgery at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center 07-01-1994 – 06-30-1995
Residency in Cardiothoracic Surgery at University of Rochester 07/01/1992 – 06/30/1994
Internship in General Surgery at University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry 07/01/1987 – 06/30/1988

> Current Appointments
Associate Professor – Department of Surgery, Cardiac (SMD) – Primary 
Associate Professor – Department of Pediatrics, Critical Care (SMD)

*  The above story is adapted from materials provided by University of Rochester Medical Center

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