In Dr. Guleserian’s case, it was several things. Her younger brother, Mike, having open heart surgery at a very young age had a huge impact on her. But there was also a young boy in their Boston neighborhood who had an even more serious problem.
“There was a little boy who used to ride the school bus with us every day named Tommy Kaplan. He was born the same year as my brother. Tommy had two older brothers, David and Peter, and they would always try to help him on the school bus. And he just looked extremely blue. And we wondered, ‘Can’t anyone do anything? Why is this kid so different than everybody else?’
“It would take forever for Tommy to get onto the bus. And, you know little kids — they don’t know what’s going on, so they’re yelling ‘Come on! Get on the bus! We’re going to be late,’ you know. Very few people knew that he had end-stage heart disease.
“But anyway, this was in the ’70s, – transplantation wasn’t an option. So, Tommy was managed medically. There were no surgical options for him, because he had pulmonary hypertension, which is abnormally high blood pressure in the lungs.
“And all he wanted to do on his birthday that year was eat a lobster and hit a home run. So, he put on his Red Sox uniform on, ate a lobster, went in the backyard, hit a home run, told his Mom and Dad he felt tired, took a nap and never woke up.”