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Andover bat mitzvah girl gives back to hospital that saved her

Journal Staff

Abby Remis with Dr. Michael Freed, who was head of the Department of Cardiology at Boston Children’s Hospital at the time of her surgery. He now heads a fund in her name.

JUNE 21, 2018, ANDOVER – It was 4 on a Friday afternoon, and things were winding down. Cindy Remis had just taken her baby daughter, Abby, to the doctor for her nine-month checkup, and everything seemed to be in order. Cindy was out the door when a last-minute question popped into her head. She walked back into the pediatrician’s office and mentioned that Abby had been sweating a lot.

This concerned their pediatrician, who ordered a chest X-ray. It revealed that Abby’s heart was abnormally large, and more testing needed to be done. Eventually, doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital diagnosed Abby with a rare birth defect called ALCAPA, or anomalous left coronary artery from the pulmonary artery. ALCAPA occurs when the left coronary artery, which carries blood to the heart muscle, begins from the pulmonary artery instead of the aorta. The infant would need open-heart surgery.

The surgery lasted seven hours, and the Remis family stayed at the hospital for four weeks. “It was terrible. I can’t even describe it,” said Cindy. “I didn’t go home at all. I said I wouldn’t go home until I could go home with my baby.”

The surgery was a success, and Abby slowly recovered. Now, 12 years later, Abby is a seventh-grader at the Pike School in Andover who volunteers at her synagogue’s kindergarten. She loves drama, music, and arts and crafts, and just celebrated her bat mitzvah on June 2.

While she has no memory of her illness, Abby knows she owes her life to the doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital. When it came time for her bat mitzvah, she wanted to give back. Every bar or bat mitzvah at Temple Emanuel in Andover is required to do a mitzvah project, and Remis immediately knew she would help Children’s Hospital.

A talented artist, Abby made rainbow loom bracelets and sold them at her school, her synagogue, and to friends and family. The project was a phenomenal success. She sold over 600 bracelets, and donated the $4,000 she raised to the hospital. Her family also set up a fund in her name that pays for a world-renowned cardiologist from another hospital to teach the cardiology fellows at Boston Children’s Hospital new skills.

The doctors’ training culminates in a dinner that the Remis family has attended for the past three years. This year, for the first time, Abby gave a speech telling her story. She then presented the hospital with a check for $3,500. Since the dinner, she has raised $500 more.

“She was so poised and confident,” said Cindy. “She gets giving back.”

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Andy Bentley June 29, 2018, 7:39 am

    What a heartwarming story to start the day!
    Great job Abby!
    Matt & Cindy…..hope your cheeks don’t hurt too much after smiling so big and bright!!!!! Very inspiring.

  • Jane Martin June 29, 2018, 9:42 am

    Congratulations to Abby and kudos to her parents because they taught their daughter the value of paying it forward. Go Abby!

  • Karen M. Gildea June 29, 2018, 9:48 am

    What an amazing girl! It speaks volumes about Abby’s character to read about her wonderful and very ambitious project!

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