• Julie Balzer

Heart to Heart: How Three Generations of Stanford Doctors Saved our Daughter's Life


Dr. Frank Hanley (Stanford Medicine website)

I was in between sets at the gym when I saw him out of the corner of my eye. A gray-haired but fit-as-a-fiddle man wearing blue scrubs had just checked in. I whispered to my trainer, “I think I know that guy...” She said, “Oh yeah. That’s Frank. I think he’s a doctor at Stanford.” With tears welling up and a smile across my face I replied, “That's not just any doctor. That’s Frank Hanley, one of the best pediatric heart surgeons in the world, and he saved my daughter’s life!”


There are few things in life that can make a person feel more vulnerable than sitting in a waiting room while your child is in the hands of strangers, undergoing open heart surgery. On January 26th, 2016, my husband and I sat, waiting, praying, and reminding each other to find comfort in the knowledge that she was receiving the best care available, and it was all happening just 6 stoplights away from our home. We had received the diagnosis in the fall of 2015- coarctation of the aorta, a rare condition that presents in the first month after a baby is born. Clinical details if anyone is interested. Thanks to Frank Hanley and the incredible team at Lucille Packard Children's Hospital, our daughter recovered quickly, and is now a bright, bouncy, kindergartener.


Dr. Duane Merrill (my grandfather) performing heart surgery in 1976

It's extra special to our family that my grandfather, Dr. Duane Merrill, was one of the forerunners of thoracic surgery in California, and completed his residency at Stanford in 1954. It was wild to see some of his work come full circle through the generations.


Here are some resources and facts regarding Stanford Children's Health


Stanford Children's Health Fact Sheet


New Hospital!







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