Former New York State Senator Terrence Murphy and his spouse Caroline had their world turned upside down in January of 2022.
Their son Kian, who is 12 now, was born with a heart murmur. At the time, doctors assured them it was no cause for alarm—that most of the time kids “grow into it” within a few years. But in November 2021 they found out Kian had developed type-1 diabetes; further testing indicated there were much more serious heart issues too.
That’s when the Murphys went to pediatric heart surgeon David Kalfa, MD. “We have good news and bad news,” said Dr. Kalfa. “The good news is that we found this. The bad news is that it’s going to be full open-heart.”
Kian’s ascending aorta was fully dilated, he had an aneurysm on his heart. Dr. Kalfa assured them that he could correct the problem with a graft but that they can’t wait too long for Kian’s surgery.
On March 28, 2022, he had his open-heart operation. Kian’s parents didn’t tell him until the week before so he wouldn’t spend time looking up his condition and the surgical procedure on the internet. And it paid off. During all the surgical prep, Kian maintained a sense of calm.
As the Murphys waited the hours that felt like days for the surgery to end, they had so much support from their family, friends, and community. Even Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, gave Mr. Murphy a call during those hours in the waiting room.
The surgery went perfectly. Kian spent about five days recovering in the hospital and is back to his life, playing golf with his team and thriving. The Murphys were overcome with gratitude and wanted to do something to honor Dr. Kalfa—to show him “how grateful we are for what he does every day.” So, then-Senator Murphy called up the Senate Minority Leader and said, “He saves lives every single day. I want to put together a really nice proclamation to present.”
Kian didn’t get a chance to actually talk to Dr. Kalfa before his procedure. He didn’t see him the morning of his surgery because he was already put under in the OR, and Kian told his dad that he had some questions for the person who saved his life.
With the proclamation in hand, Kian and his father paid a visit to the hospital and presented Dr. Kalfa with the honor you see here. Thoroughly surprised, Dr. Kalfa was so moved by the gesture. They sat down to chat for a few moments. It was Kian’s chance to get answers. But even Kian’s dad was surprised by the questions he had for his surgeon. None were about his procedure.
“What was the longest surgery you’ve ever done?” asked Kian.
“16 hours,” says Dr. Kalfa.
“What’s your favorite hobby?”
“I like to play the piano,” Dr. Kalfa says.
And lastly, “Do you play golf?” To which Dr. Kalfa replied, “Kind of.”
Kian’s final question was, “Would you like to come play with me sometime?”
Soon, they hope, they’ll make a date.
Don’t miss an update on news and content from Healthpoints, the blog from the Department of Surgery at Columbia