Patient Story: Mahdi Islam

April 10, 2020

For six-year-old Mahdi Islam, walking just a few New York City blocks may as well have been scaling Mount Everest. Born in 2010, Mahdi had been diagnosed at birth at Flushing Hospital with Ebstein anomaly, a rare congenital heart defect that impacts the heart’s activity and blood flow. In spite of this rare condition, Mahdi seemed to be fine in his early years, showing only minor symptoms. The need for surgery seemed unlikely. But as more time passed, his symptoms began to steadily worsen; his lips frequently turned blue and he experienced frequent shortness of breath and fatigue. His cardiologists in Flushing referred his father, Saidul, and mother, Suhenaj, to Columbia/NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital for ongoing pediatric cardiology treatment. 

Mahdi then began a long and difficult journey with his team at Columbia. Pediatric cardiologists Amee Shah, MD and David Kalfa, MD, PhD, alongside a dedicated group of nurses, worked with his family as they faced the prospect of multiple surgeries. Beginning in September of 2016, Mahdi underwent a total of six surgeries on his heart, with multiple complications along the way.

“We were amazed by the doctors and the service that the nurses provided. My wife and I were in tears for everything the nurses did for our son. ICU nurse Nerlande Pierre took care of our son as if he were her own,” says Saidul.

After two years, at age eight, it was clear that Mahdi needed a new heart. Nonetheless, it was a major decision. “With such a difficult decision on our hands, the support from Columbia was incredible,” says Saidul. “As we considered the transplant, the doctors encouraged us to do research, get second opinions, and speak to other families before finally moving forward with the procedure.” Ultimately, Mahdi was admitted to the waiting list for hearts on March 17, 2018 and six weeks later, Dr. Shah and her staff confirmed him for the transplant. 

Mahdi’s surgery and treatment made all the difference. Since the procedure, he has steadily improved, enjoying his greatly improved stamina, heart rate, and physical activity. His lips are a healthy pink, and he can now walk 20 blocks on any given day without assistance! In September, he happily went back to school, entering the fourth grade in the East Meadow School District of Long Island. 

Looking back on his son’s medical journey, Saidul now says, “We always knew our son was in good hands.”