Mum's heartwarming letter to baby's heart surgeon goes viral

Jillian Benfield and her son Anderson in hospital.
Jillian Benfield and her son Anderson in hospital.  Photo: Supplied

Finding out that your 9-month-old baby needs open heart surgery would be a terrifying experience for any parent. At times like those, your child's life – and heart – is literally in the hands of a stranger.

But one doctor did such an amazing job of putting a worried mum at ease that she felt compelled to wrote a special blog post about it – and it's since gone viral.

Jillian Benfield is mum to baby Anderson, who has Down syndrome, and who was born with a heart defect that required surgery months later.  

Baby Anderson and his medical team.
Baby Anderson and his medical team. Photo: Supplied

She was understandably petrified of the operation but says Dr John Nigro, a paediatric cardiac surgeon at Phoenix Children's Hospital, made the family calm and at ease during and after the surgery, held on June 18.

"After coming home from the hospital and having time to process and deal with what Anderson had just gone through, I was so overwhelmed by the change I saw in him and wanted to let the doctor know how grateful I was," Benfield told

So she wrote an open letter to the doctor and posted it on her blog.

"I didn't want to meet you. In fact, I was angry on the two-and-a-half hour drive to your office," Benfield wrote in the letter. "See, I was told that my son's heart defect would most likely not require open heart surgery. Then, all of a sudden, it felt like a bomb went off and the explosion sent my husband and I to your office a few days later."

"I asked you this, 'Have you ever lost a baby from this heart surgery?' You looked down and said, 'Yes.' There was one little girl, one among thousands, who also had Down syndrome, who went home and died in her sleep.

"Even though the loss was more than a decade ago, I could tell it still pained your heart. That's when I knew you were the one."


 "When we are kids, we are taught that super heroes come with big muscles and capes. As an adult I've realized they often times come in surgical caps and scrubs.

"Thank you for your enormous dedication. Thank you for all of those years you sacrificed perfecting your craft. Thank you for making my son's broken heart whole. Thank you for making your life about making his better."

Anderson has recover well from his surgery and is much more alert than he was before, his mum says. He loves playing with his sister, Violet, 2, and is starting to make noises = something that hadn't happened pre-surgery.   

For his part, Dr Nigro returned a message to the family, saying how much the kind words had boosted him and his team.

Other parents have since thanks Dr Nigro and other surgeons like him – the superheroes who walk among us and save those precious little lives.