“We feared she would die. Her little heart was not working properly. The drugs were not working.  My wife, our other children and I, after celebrating her birth, fell into despondency and despair. But then, thanks to the doctors, hope was rekindled and today our little Nour is alive. She is a happy and lively child. She is always smiling and is the mascot of the whole family”. So said Mohammed, 50, Nour’s father, after his daughter, a 7-month-old girl with Down’s syndrome, successfully underwent a delicate and difficult operation that saved her life.

That of Nour and his family is a story with a happy ending, thanks to the professionalism and collaboration between the San Pietro Hospital in Bergamo and the San Donato Hospital in Milan. From a clinical point of view, it has been an incredible achievement.

Shortly after Nour was born, she started to experience difficulties. Her breathing and feeding were inadequate, and she wasn’t growing as quickly as anticipated. Paediatricians at the San Pietro Children’s Hospital in Bergamo, where 500 youngsters with congenital heart disorders have been cared for, diagnosed a heart condition. Little Nour had her heart checked by a children’s heart doctor and researcher at the Congenital Heart Unit in San Donato Hospital, Milan.

They found that Nour had a large hole in her heart. “This condition, – according to Professor Massimo Chessa, Head of the Department of Congenital Cardiology for Adults at the Policlinico San Donato Research Hospital in Milan, – is present at birth and causes a path for blood flow between the heart’s right and left ventricles. If not treated, it can lead to critical heart failure, which cannot be survived.” Even if someone survives the first stage, the disease will eventually lead to pulmonary hypertension, which still has high mortality rates over a long period”.

Following initial progress using pharmacological therapy, the patient’s condition deteriorated, indicating significant heart failure. Despite the non-optimal condition, surgery proved to be the only option.  As a result, the young girl was transferred to Policlinico San Donato, a renowned centre of excellence for treating congenital heart disease, including Nour’s affliction, in order to undergo corrective surgery for the intraventricular septal defect rectification.

She underwent corrective surgery to rectify the intraventricular septal defect, which was successfully conducted by the head of the Department of Paediatric Cardiac Surgery and his team. Following several months of hospitalization, Nour’s parents felt relieved. Once discharged, Nour returned home with her family. They felt an overwhelming sense of amazement upon witnessing her smile, play and form physical connections with her little hands.

This remarkable achievement was the result of collaboration between skilled professionals and hospitals with a common goal of saving children’s lives.

References: Press release


Professor Massimo Chessa is Chief of the Department of Congenital cardiology for adults at the Policlinico San Donato Research Hospital in Milan.

He also holds the position of Associate Professor of Cardiovascular diseases at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University.

Professor Chessa specialized in Paediatrics and Cardiology, in addition to a Ph.D. in Fetal and Paediatric Cardiology

Dr Giamberti is Head of the Department of Paediatric cardiac surgery and Department of Cardiac surgery for congenital heart diseases in adults at the Policlinico San Donato. He also is Visiting Professor in Paediatric cardiac surgery at the School of Specialization in Cardiac surgery at the University of Brescia.

Dr Giamberti is the Scientific Director of the Italian Association for adult patient with congenital heart diseases (AICCA).

The Policlinico San Donato Research Hospital received the top award in the “Collaborative Projects in Health” category at the 2023 European Private Hospital Awards for their work using the hub and spoke model to foster collaboration between Policlinico San Donato and Policlinico San Pietro.

It is noteworthy that Policlinico San Donato, which belongs to the San Donato Group, is recognised as the second most renowned centre for cardiovascular disease globally. The Pediatric Heart Surgery Department is the primary facility in Italy and among the most prolific ones in Europe for the diagnosis and management of congenital heart disorders. It performs around 500 cardiac interventions per year and also cares for over 600 patients undergoing interventional cardiology procedures.

In addition, the Perfusion Service and the EMO Unit at Policlinico San Donato have successfully performed a highly complex surgical procedure using an advanced perfusion system, which has recently been tested in a paediatric setting and is particularly beneficial in reducing the risk of prolonged exposure to extracorporeal circulation. This landmark achievement is the first of its kind in the world.