In 2019, a very pregnant Kristina Gisonde studied two dots on her latest ultrasound. The dots represented her baby’s kidneys, and they were different sizes – not a good sign. Her doctor recommended that, soon after birth, they see a specialist at Connecticut Children's.

Kristina and husband Matt had just moved to Fairfield County with two young children. Being new to the area, they didn’t know anything about Connecticut Children's, including how far away it might be from their home in Ridgefield. They did know that, with a newborn, a 2-year-old, and a 4-year-old, life was about to get very busy.

When Kristina called to set up the appointment, she braced herself for whatever – and wherever – it took. To her surprise, the receptionist suggested Danbury, about a 15-minute drive.

“I remember exhaling a sigh of relief when she said there was a location so close,” says Kristina.

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At 6 weeks old, baby Gjovana had her first of many visits at Connecticut Children's Danbury specialty care center. The imaging team performed an ultrasound of her kidneys. Then pediatric nephrologist Robyn Matloff, MD, MPH, sat with Kristina to explain the diagnosis, a swelling in the kidneys called hydronephrosis, and how they would monitor it with regular ultrasound scans.

Dr. Matloff suggested something else, too. During the exam, she noticed a mark on Gjovana’s lip that looked like a hemangioma, a type of benign tumor. She reassured Kristina that her colleagues in the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders could help. As an integrated health system – the only one in Connecticut that’s 100% dedicated to children – Connecticut Children's offers coordinated care for 30-plus pediatric specialties.

“You can tell that, even though the doctors are in their own specialties, they all know one another and have a great connection,” says Kristina. Before she and Gjovana left that day, they had a visit scheduled with Michael Isakoff, MD, who helps lead Connecticut Children's hemangioma program.

With two diagnoses under control, Gjovana’s health journey wasn’t quite over. Later that year, her primary care pediatrician, Meredith Renda, MD, heard a heart murmur. Both Dr. Renda and Kristina knew just who to call. In fact, Dr. Renda’s practice, Doctors’ Pediatric in Ridgefield, is part of Connecticut Children's Care Network, a partnership between primary care practices and Connecticut Children's specialists.

“When my patients need a pediatric specialist, I always recommend Connecticut Children's,” says Dr. Renda. “In addition to being at the top of their field, they go out of their way to make the experience easy for families, and to keep me in the loop as the child’s primary doctor.”

Whatever care Gjovana needed, she had the right team close by.

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Within the first year of my daughter's life, during a pandemic, she needed the care and guidance of her pediatrician and three specialists. I truly felt like we had a team.

Kristina Gisonde,
Gjovana's Mom

State of the art, kid-friendly, kind

Kristina bundled Gjovana into the car once more for Danbury, this time for a heart ultrasound and to meet with pediatric cardiologist Joseph Kuruvilla, DO, FAAP. Everything went just as she expected – which is to say, the care was above and beyond.

All of Gjovana’s doctors have access to each other’s notes in MyChart, so Kristina never had to retell Gjovana’s story, or worry she might forget something important. Even at the height of the pandemic, she was struck by the staff’s warmth.

“When I’m at my doctor’s office, people are usually grouchy,” she laughs. “We are at Connecticut Children’s at 8 am and I hear the team talking to each other, and they’re jovial. There’s this camaraderie amongst them. Everyone —from the receptionist to the ultrasound techs to the doctors — all radiate the same kindness.”

Plus, both she and Gjovana loved the space, which by then was a familiar destination.

“The facility is spotless, state of the art, and kid-friendly,” says Kristina. “If I could give them a grade, it would be A+.”

“The best of the best”

Gjovana, who is now 2 and a half years old, is doing great. Her hydronephrosis resolved on its own, after careful monitoring, and her hemangioma has been treated with medication. Her heart murmur is being monitored closely. She’s able to receive all of this in-person care, including advanced imaging like kidney and heart ultrasounds, right in Fairfield County. Sometimes, thanks to Video Visits, she doesn’t even have to leave home.

That leaves plenty of time for fun with her older siblings. August, now 6, is the thoughtful, serious one, who can already hold his own in adult conversation. Vivienne, now 4, is the outdoorsy, curious one, quick to point out a fascinating bug or plant. Gjovana is the assertive, precocious one, who’s currently obsessed with tutus. (Sometimes, depending on the day, she’ll wear three at a time.) Together, the three Gisonde kids make a great team – each with unique, complementary strengths, and a serious commitment to having each other’s backs.

That’s the kind of teamwork Gjovana gets with her health care, too.

“Within the first year of my daughter's life, during a pandemic, she needed the care and guidance of her pediatrician and three specialists. I truly felt like we had a team,” says Kristina. “I wholeheartedly knew that my daughter was in the hands of the best of the best. The level of professionalism, and the attention to care that we received, is award worthy.”