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Trusting Us with Justice’s Life

Justice Raley 2 resized

Justice was 17 months when his parents brought him to our emergency department with severe abdominal pain. His mother, Melissa, had been a patient at Children’s National Hospital as a teenager for heart surgery. When Justice arrived, Dr. Mikael Petrosyan discovered a life-threatening blockage in his intestines. Dr. Petrosyan performed surgery that day. Around midnight, Melissa noticed that Justice’s incision appeared inflamed and called the surgical unit for help. “They rushed him upstairs,” Melissa recalls. “We didn’t know what would happen next.”

Justice had developed a rare and dangerous bacterial infection. Dr. Evan Nadler performed emergency surgery. Justice was in a medically-induced coma for weeks and in the hospital for more than 5 months. “His dad and I stayed by his bedside,” Melissa says, “But the nurses eventually convinced me it was OK to take a break. I trusted them with his life.”

During Justice’s recovery, nurses wheeled him around the hospital in a red wagon. “He loved seeing the fish tanks and planting seeds in the Healing Garden,” Melissa says. “Having those free moments to take a shower meant a lot to me.”

A volunteer taught Melissa to knit to relax and pass time. A nurse gave her expert lessons in wound care. “I felt so relieved to know I could take good care of him when we got home,” Melissa says. In November 2019, Dr. Tony Sandler, our surgeon-in-chief, successfully reconnected Justice’s intestines.

Justice is now 5 and fully recovered. “He’s a typical, active kid who loves to swim and jump on his trampoline,” Melissa says. “Care from Children’s National made it seem like we weren’t even in the hospital. It saved his life.”

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