Around 30 weeks pregnant, our Maternal & Fetal Medicine doctor suspected that our daughter, Lily, had Esophageal Atresia/Trcheoesophageal Fistula (EA/TEF). He told us we were "lucky in an unlucky situation" as Boston Children’s Hospital had an elite Esophageal and Airway Treatment Center. We set up a fetal MRI and meeting with the surgeon do go over an overall plan.
We met Dr. Smithers after our fetal MRI in the surgical consult area at Boston Children’s Hospital. Despite hearing such difficult news, we always felt so comforted by Dr. Smithers. He was so down to earth and used his own personal experiences as a father to provide us both comfort and reassurance. In that moment, we saw him more than just a surgeon. We instantly knew that we were in good hands. I mean, to help us understand that he knew EXACTLY how we were feeling was one of the things I think I needed most in that moment as a mother. He is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the work he does. He truly wanted to help provide my child with the best quality of life possible however he could.
Throughout the course of the next 4 months, my daughter hit many speed bumps, but he was always there to check on her and answer questions as we needed. Dr. Smithers preformed 3 different surgeries on our daughter - the foker for her esophagus (2 surgeries that also included some tracheopexies) and a nissen fundoplication. Dr. Smithers let us watch him perform the external traction on our daughter at the NICU bedside. He was calm and careful in his work. Despite our daughter being paralyzed at that moment, he made sure that she was comfortable in whatever he was doing.
After her Foker surgeries, my daughter had SEVERE stridor and left vocal cord “sleepiness”. Dr. Smithers ensured us he saw her nerve perfectly and was not even a bit concerned. I knew I could just trust him no matter how anxious I was in that moment.
She then developed a recurrent fistula before discharge that would require an additional surgery. Unfortunately, it was at this time that Dr. Smithers informed us that was leaving to establish The Esophageal & Airway Treatment Program at Johns Hopkins All Children's in Florida in just a few weeks and he would not be around to perform her future surgeries. While sad, we knew that Dr. Smithers would leave us in a situation to help allow Lily to have a great quality of life.
In the next few weeks that passed, we got to know Dr. Smithers as more than a surgeon — avid patriots fan, loving husband, and overall amazing person. He even cracked a few jokes with us before he left - a side we hadn’t fully seen from him in all those months! :) The nurses and staff at Boston Children's Hospital (BCH) always had great things to say about him.
Much like many of the surgeons at BCH, Dr. Smithers provided his patient's families with his personal phone number and encouraged us to reach out with any questions. As Lily continued to hit more speed bumps in her EA/TEF journey, Dr. Smithers kept tabs on her. He even reached out to us from Florida just to check on both her and us after she had an emergency aortopexy surgery. He is the utmost professional. He cares SO MUCH about his patients and their families. He goes above and beyond in his work and we are so lucky that our wild and crazy journey allowed us to cross paths with such a great surgeon and man.
Today, Lily is a thriving almost 2-year old and she has not had respiratory issues or infections!