London – When their son Mattia was saved by heart surgery, Luca and Heidi Ferasin wondered how they’d ever repay the doctor who performed the operation.
But their chance to say “thank you” came sooner than they expected as the pair – both veterinary cardiologists – were asked to treat the same heart defect in the surgeon’s poorly dog.
Now Mattia and French bulldog Badu are thriving – and, what’s more, they’ve become the best of friends.
Their journey began when Mattia was born with a hole in his heart at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. The conditions – a ventricular septal defect and coarctation of the aorta – had been picked up 20 weeks into Mrs Ferasin’s pregnancy.
At just six days old, Mattia underwent a seven-hour operation at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital.
The family had been warned there was a 10 percent chance their son might not survive the procedure.
Thankfully, after several days in intensive care, he was allowed home. Ferasin, 38, of Four Marks, Hampshire, said: “We knew that when he was born he would have to undergo risky surgery.
“We had no idea what his quality of life would be like… we have always felt that we owe all the staff so much. We are very aware that without their skill, passion and compassion, Mattia may not be here today.”
After the operation, one of the cardiac surgeons – Dr Caner Salih – told the family that his pet had a heart murmur.
They invited him to their surgery, Lumbry Park in Alton, and found that the dog had the same heart problem as their son. Unlike Mattia, who is now four, Budu didn’t require surgery and so Mr Ferasin, 54, recommended “management options”. When Dr Salih, 58, returned a year later, he told the vets his dog had recovered.
“He’s not the brightest dog in the world but he’s family,” he said.
Ferasin said treating Budu was “our way of giving something back because no words can ever express the gratitude we feel”.