Returns To North Shore University Hospital 23 Years After Heart Surgery

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Gagik Hovanessian, just 7 years old at the time, returned to Armenia in 1990 with his heart newly repaired, but he contracted a severe epileptic disorder as a result of the surgery. He regularly experienced intense seizures several times a day.

In May, Hovanessian returned to North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset — where he underwent his heart surgery 23 years before — to have two more operations performed on him. Now, for the first time since he was a child, Hovanessian is seizure-free.

“Gagik is free of neurological deficit, and he has not had any seizures in two months,” Dr. Ashesh Mehta, director or epilepsy surgery at North Shore, told reporters, including 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera, on Thursday. “Great success story. I’m very proud of how he has done.”

Hovanessian first came to North Shore with the help of the Russian Gift of Life charity and the Rotary International service organization, after being diagnosed with a congenital heart condition known as Tetralogy of Fallot, which occurs in about five out of every 10,000 babies.

After the surgery, an infection and scar tissue led to the seizures. Hovanessian returned to North Shore at age 16, when doctors urged him to have brain surgery after he was fully grown. In May, Hovanessian and his mother made the trek once again from Armenia to Manhasset, where he has undergone two more surgeries — one to implant electrodes to pinpoint where the seizures began and what areas were affected, and one to remove the area of brain that produced the seizures.

Since his latest surgery, Hovanessian has not experienced any headaches, impairment or memory loss, his doctors said. He was discharged June 14 and will soon return home to Armenia, where he can finally learn to drive a car.

“As a mother, I gave birth to him,” his mother, Jasmin, said at Thursday’s news conference through a translator. “But America gave him a life.”

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