The wait of love: Newborn flown to California for open heart surgery |

The wait of love: Newborn flown to California for open heart surgery

Dave Frank
Appeal Staff Writer

Christina Martinelli was too sedated to notice the child that doctors had just set on her chest, but her husband, Dominic Martinelli, knew their baby was sick.

It was Aug. 15 and Christina was full of the drugs she needed for her Caesarean section. She said she didn’t remember holding the baby that morning, but it wasn’t with her long. Staff at Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center took him away to check his lungs.

He’d have to be taken to Reno to be treated.

“The hardest part was when they were swarming over him at birth,” said Dominic, a 37-year-old Web programmer from Carson City. “I was like, ‘OK, something’s wrong.'”

His baby, Lucas, couldn’t be treated at the hospital in Reno, either.

Two main arteries in the baby’s heart had formed incorrectly, a doctor at the hospital explained to Dominic, and would have to be rearranged. Lucas would have to be taken to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University in California.

Though Dominic went to the hospital that night with the baby, Christina was still in Carson City recovering. She said she tried to stay in denial about how critical her son was until she saw him three days later, but broke down at least once before she left.

“I remember just being in the shower sobbing my eyes out and telling God that I was OK with his will, whatever that was, (whether) Lucas was coming home or if he wasn’t ever coming home.

“At that one moment,” she said, “I was just telling God that I’ve never ever ever wanted anything more than I’ve wanted that baby.”

When she saw him in the critical care room Aug. 18, she was shocked. Her baby was covered in tubes being treated in a room full of other sick children.

“He was all hooked up to everything,” she said. “I couldn’t even see him.”

During that week, both she and Dominic didn’t understand why their son was sick.

They had tried to be careful. They had waited 9 years to have a child. Christina, almost always, ate healthily over the last several months.

“The worse thing I did during my pregnancy was drink Cherry Coke and eat Cheez-Its my last week,” she said.

Lucas was scheduled to have surgery early the next week. Doctors would cut open his chest, temporarily stop his heart and rearrange the two problem arteries.

But the baby didn’t have his operation that Monday, Aug. 20, like the doctors said he might.

The parents waited.

Tuesday? No.

Wednesday? No.

Then on Thursday, Aug. 23, Lucas had what seems to have been a successful surgery that will allow him to leave with his parents in about a month.

Today, he is scheduled to be moved out of intensive care, his parents said.

• Contact reporter Dave Frank at or 881-1212.