Cord Lehman receives a special gift

Four hours after his heart operation at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, Cord Lehman, 17, of Syosset, was sitting in a chair, texting and tweeting.

A day later, he went home.

And a little more than two weeks later, he said he felt great.

“I am back to being me and that’s all I want to be,” said the graduating senior from Syosset High School at a news conference Thursday at the New Hyde Park hospital.

Lehman was born with tetralogy of Fallot, a rare and complex defect that changes the normal flow of blood through the heart. It occurs in about five of every 10,000 babies, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and can be fatal if not corrected. By the time he was 5, Lehman had undergone three open-heart surgeries; each took him weeks to recover, caused scarring and posed a risk of infection.

Although Lehman said he felt no symptoms, recent tests had shown his heart was leaking blood and he needed a new valve.

So on May 27, interventional cardiologist Dr. Dipak Kholwadwala and his team at Cohen used a new procedure, inserting a Melody Transcatheter Pulmonary Valve into his heart. Instead of the usual open-heart surgery, the valve was placed via a thin tube inserted through a small incision in the groin.

The valve is folded down and attached to a wire frame, or stent, that is delivered by a catheter through a vein. Two tiny balloons are then inflated to open the valve.

The less invasive procedure means less trauma, less risk of infection and a quicker recovery time, said Kholwadwala, who has performed about 15 such insertions in the past two years. And, in Lehman’s case, he said, it means that “he has no significant restrictions in terms of activity.”

Which is gratifying to Lehman, who said he’s excited about going to Hofstra in September. “I am relieved I won’t have to deal with open-heart surgery — hopefully for the rest of my life,” he said.

“Without them,” he said, referring to his doctors, “I would not be here. Nobody knows that better than me.”

And Lehman, who is an avid Islanders fan, was not displeased that ice hockey hall-of-famer Pat LaFontaine, who played for the Islanders, Rangers and Buffalo Sabres, showed up at the news conference with a signed hockey stick for him.

Asked later if he wanted the Rangers to beat the Los Angeles Kings for the Stanley Cup, Lehman was quick to answer. “Nope,” said the Islanders fan. “I’m hoping they lose.”