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'Miracle' Child Now Happy, Healthy After Delicate Heart Surgery at Albany Med

As seven-month-old Joey Slichko sat there, giggling and playing with his toes, his mother couldn’t help but smile.

“Joey is amazing,” Eileen Slichko said. “He’s a miracle!”

For that miracle, Eileen and her husband Joseph of Clifton Park thank Albany Med pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon Neil Devejian, MD.

Twenty weeks into Eileen’s pregnancy, doctors discovered a significant heart issue, which meant the baby would need open heart surgery soon after birth.

On Sept. 13, 2013, Joey arrived. Moments later, he began to turn blue and was rushed to Albany Med’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) where he was stabilized. But that was just the beginning of a long road to recovery.

“He needed to be intubated. He had high blood pressure. He needed an atrial septostomy, a tiny hole placed in his heart,” Joey’s mother recalled.


Surgery scheduled to repair his heart was canceled when Joey’s breathing, liver and kidneys failed.

Joey Slichko and his mom, Eileen at Joey's first birthday party.
Joey Slichko with his mom, Eileen at Joey's first birthday party.
“He turned yellowish-green and blew up like a balloon,” Eileen said. “It was unspeakably awful.”

Seven weeks after birth, Dr. Devejian and the team performed day-long heart surgery on Joey. Eileen said that she remembers the team was prepared for every outcome, including long-term life support with a heart bypass machine.

“The doctors worked their tails off for Joey”, she said.

The outcome, thankfully, was a good one. Joey was off bypass right after the surgery.  His organs were all working properly; 8 days later he was temporarily off the ventilator; and 86 days after birth, Joey went home.

“The care he received at Albany Med was nothing short of the best in the world,” Eileen said, singling out Dr. Devejian. “He was just incredible!”

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