A Conversation with January Cover Doctor Michele Domico, Medical Director of the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at CHOC

oc_jan17_coverWhat is your role at CHOC?
I treat children and babies with heart disease—mainly those who have had heart surgery and are quite sick. I take care of them until they are better. They’re often hooked up to machines and breathing tubes and on medications, so I manage all of that.

Why go into pediatric medicine?
The children are so brave and so sweet. Someone has to advocate for them, especially the ones too young to be able to speak for themselves. And I think it takes a certain kind of personality. In life or death situations, I find it really easy to focus and think clearly. The more critical a situation is, the clearer everything becomes for me.

You’ve worked at CHOC since 2003. What’s that atmosphere like?
We practice in a family-centered care environment. That means we get the families involved in our decision-making. When we do our rounds and consult with each other, we have the families included in those discussions. I think that CHOC is special because of the people. It’s a very collegial and friendly environment. Of course the building is beautiful but anyone can build a beautiful structure. It’s the people inside that make it feel like home. And I do feel like it’s my home.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
One that sticks with me is “Don’t worry about things you can’t control.” In our field, we try to control everything; but some things are just out of your hands.

Who are some of your most memorable patients?
Children who have had to go on the ECMO, which is a cardiac and respiratory bypass machine. It’s a very difficult process to put a patient on that machine but it can save lives. The patients I remember most are ones who you never would have thought would survive. But at the end of their treatment you see them walking out of here and they are completely healthy.

Your husband, Jeff Taylor, is also a pediatrician. Is that how you met?
We actually met at UC San Diego—we were both on the track team. Then we lost touch for many years. One day at CHOC, I was treating a boy who had heart disease and I noticed the father’s last name was Taylor. And he looked familiar. It was Jeff’s brother. The patient was his nephew.

What have you learned from your patients?
Resilience. Some of these children are more resilient than you could ever imagine.


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