In June 2020, most people in the U.S. and in countries around the world were hunkered down planning for more months of physical distancing at home due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. However, the Minadou family in Greece was planning a big trip–their daughter Styliani’s first-ever journey across the world.
It wasn’t an ideal time for world travel, obviously, but little Styliani, Stella for short, had a complex colorectal condition. When she and her twin sister were born in 2019, Stella was diagnosed with an anorectal malformation. Her surgeon in Greece, as well as an association of Greek parents of children with anorectal malformations, recommended that the family see international expert Marc Levitt, M.D., and his team for the surgery, due to his vast experience in repairing challenging cases like Stella’s.
The timing was perfect – just as she would be close to one-year old, an ideal age for the posterior sagittal anorectoplasty (PSARP) procedure that could give her full bowel control for the rest of her life, Dr. Levitt was scheduled to be in Athens treating patients and performing surgeries. Perfectly timed, until COVID-19, anyway.
Traveling to Washington, D.C.
When Dr. Levitt learned he was unable to travel to Greece as planned to see patients, Stella’s family tried to find a way to get her to Dr. Levitt at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., instead.
After securing a special visa to travel to Washington, D.C., for medical care during COVID-19, Stella, her mom and dad arrived in the U.S. in late September for her surgery. Stella’s twin sister stayed behind in Greece with her family.
When the family arrived, there were a whirlwind set of appointments arranged for them, including a pre-surgical COVID-19 test and other pre-operative exams, including an MRI and x-rays. After a hectic week, everything went smoothly on the day of surgery. So smoothly, in fact, that Stella was discharged from the hospital to a hotel within a few days of the procedure – less time than the team thought she’d need – to continue healing.
They stayed in Washington for two more weeks, and after a final in-person follow-up with Dr. Levitt’s team, they were approved to head home to their family in Greece in early October 2020.
Successful Colorectal Surgeries
Around American Thanksgiving in November, Stella had one final, small procedure at IASO General Hospital by surgeon George Pergamalis, M.D., in Athens, Greece, to complete the repair of her condition. This team in Athens collaborates closely with the Children’s National colorectal team in the hopes of helping them develop a Colorectal Center in Greece.
Today, Stella and her sister are both happy, healthy two-year-olds. With their newfound freedom from medical supplies like colostomy bags, the family plans to spend this summer at the beach in Greece for days full of swimming and playing in the sand.
Learn more about how our Division of Pediatric Colorectal & Pelvic Reconstruction treats anorectal malformations, performs the PSARP procedure and offers care for other colorectal conditions.
Chief, Division of Colorectal & Pelvic Reconstruction Program Director, Pediatric Colorectal Research Fellowship