The Fixing of Dana’s Heart

by Bob Sparrow

mrbellMr. Bell’s Fixit Shop was Dana’s favorite book as a toddler.  We read it to her so many times, that by the time she was two and a half, she had it memorized, literally. I could just turn the page, she’d see the picture and recite, word-for-word, what was written.  That remarkable recall memory would later serve her well in school. Mr. Bell had a sign in front of his shop that read, ‘I Can Fix Everything But Broken Hearts’.  Cutting to the chase, predictably he’s able to repair a doll for Jill that mends her broken heart.  In this tale of life imitating art, Dana had a heart in need of fixing.  Playing the role of Mr. Bell was Dr. Alfredo Trento, Director of the Cardiothoracic Division at ‘his shop’, Cedars-Sinai Hospital in West Hollywood.

 Dana is the world’s best patient.  We visited her as she was lying in pre-op, cracking jokes, pulling faces in her new ‘O.R. hat’ (see photo below) and speculating on whether they are going to insert a human, pig or cow replacement valve in her heart.  She concludes it’s down to a pig or human, as the Chick-fil-A cows have once again mounted a strong ad campaign in favor of the pig value.

tongueDana tells us that she’s made cookies for all her O.R. and I.C.U. caregivers and put them in little ‘Thank You’ bags.  She told the hospital staff, “If you do a good job, you’ll get a cookie”.  If you’ve tasted Dana’s cookies, you know that’s a great incentive!  They wheeled her into the O.R. cracking up and I cautioned her to ‘lie very still’ during the operation.  Dr. Trento tells us that the operation will take approximately 5 hours (there’s probably no smoke breaks in there) and that he won’t know what valve he’ll use until he looks at the heart.  Husband Joe is hoping they use a human valve because he knows that Dana is such an animal lover that if they use a pig valve, as a ‘Thank You’ gesture she will want to get  a pot belly pig as a pet.

In an hour we get a call from a nurse inside the O.R. (one of the great uses of cell phones) that the operation is going well; in three and a half hours we get another call telling us that the surgery has been successfully completed and they are now sewing her up.  Shortly thereafter Dr. Trento comes out to the waiting room to tell us that everything went very well – we all breathed a very heavy collective sigh of relief.

We visited Dana about an hour later in I.C.U. where there are no pictured allowed, but when asked about the picture I took at the right, I told them it r2d2was an artist’s rendering that I just drew.  I’m pretty sure they didn’t believe me, but they let me keep the picture anyway.  She was in quite a bit of pain up to 12 hours after the operation, but the next morning, less than 24 hours after the operation, Dana got out of bed and walked around the I.C.U. – pulling all the tubes and bags along with her.  It looked like she was walking with R2D2.  I think she set a new Cedars-Sinai record for the two laps she completed.  There is a lung transplant patient two rooms down that is challenging that, but I think Dana’s got it.

Wednesday is ‘moving day’ from I.C.U. to ‘I Don’t See You’ or whatever the regular rooms are called.  Her new room is decorated with lots of flowers and balloons – thank you!  She’s feeling pretty good for someone who just had her chest cracked open – thanks to ‘better living through chemistry’.  The doctors and nurses at Cedars-Sinai are amazing – could not ask for better care!  I felt like we should leave them a tip or something, but instead I’ll just give them a great recommendation.

emma dogOn day five, her last full day in the hospital, Dana is visited by a nurse that asks if she would like to talk with a social worker.  No.  Someone from the clergy, a minister, priest or rabbi? No.  How about a ‘Volunteer Dog’? YES!!!  Yep, hospitals now provide dogs that come in and visit patients.  Pictured here is a white Labrador named Emma, who stopped by to see Dana and do a little ‘Lab Work’.

Dana’s recovery has been remarkable; she is back to being her normal high-energy self, in fact our only concern is that they say her ‘new heart’ is going to give her more energy!  Welcome back Darlin’ Dana!!

30 comments on “The Fixing of Dana’s Heart

  1. I and my family just met Dr. Trento. It’s 1:20 am Mar 2016. My 36yo. sister-n-law, Biskin, will be coming out of surgery in 30min. having had 23 years of surgeries numbering in the teens, she has a new heart. He is amazing to think she will no longer have an LVAD or pace maker!! We are so thrilled to have the excellence of this Dr. and team.

  2. Hello Bob,
    Long time ago (1984) I took care of a little girl Dana who just had a heart surgery. My first days with her started at the hospital. It was over 30 years ago but I still remember Dana and you all. It was amazing how fast she heeled after the operation. She looks a lot like Linda. All the best to you all, Miira of Helsinki, Finland

    • Amazing to hear from you Miira!!! We have often wondered where you ended up and how you’re doing. How in the world did you find our blog with Dana’s story? If you ever get out this way, we’d love to see you again. Please stay in touch and tell us what you’ve been doing for the past 30 years! My email is

  3. Thanks Bob for the wonderful story. Dana sounds like quite a young lady, and Marilyn and I wish her a speedy recovery. See you soon.

  4. We are all so glad you are recovering nicely and it sounds like your hospital stay was not too bad! I love the cookie incentive….of course you thought of that. It’s no surprise to me that you were able to be the happy and fun person you always are through this process. Love you and we are looking forward to seeing you soon. Xoxo
    Dani, Kyle and Jack

  5. Thank you for sharing her incredible story of hope, perseverance and courage. It’s wonderful that she is doing so well. Having taken a somewhat similar journey myself, I send positive thoughts and the message that everything gets better and better from here on!

  6. Bob & Linda:

    So happy to hear that Dana is doing so well. Her great sense of humor is amazing during such a huge operation. Hmmmm……….I wonder who she takes after? Sending thoughts and prayers to the entire Sparrow family.

  7. Thanks for sharing the update and great connection to the book, Mr Bell’s Fixit Shop. Dana, glad to hear you are improving each day! All our love!

  8. We’re thrilled that Dana is doing so well……the love and support (and humor) your family shares is heartwarming…..Dr, Trento fixed your “doll’s” heart! Blessings to you all!

  9. So happy to hear Dana is doing so well and the surgery was successful. She is a remarkable young woman and clearly is blessed with the Sparrow humor gene.

    Love to all, Margaret

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