The Mass. Eye and Ear community mourns the loss of our beloved colleague, provider and friend, Dr. Lina Bolaños
The Mass. Eye and Ear family is grieving together as we struggle to come to terms with the deaths of Dr. Lina Bolaños and her fiancé, Dr. Richard Field.
There are no words to capture the profound loss we feel, but many of us have found great comfort through shared reflections and stories about Lina, her infectious love of life and her roles as a compassionate clinician, caregiver and friend.
Lina was a full-time pediatric anesthesiologist at Mass. Eye and Ear and an instructor in anesthesia at Harvard Medical School. She was known to all as a dedicated and empathetic anesthesiologist, deeply committed to our youngest and most vulnerable patients.
She was warm and caring, with a special ability to calm nervous children and their anxious parents – all while managing difficult and complex pediatric cases. She treated every patient with a deep compassion that was noticed and appreciated by their families.
Many families who experienced Lina’s extraordinary care have reached out to share their devastation and thoughts on how she always made difficult times more manageable for them.
A Kind, Familiar Face
Katie Catapano’s son, Michael, was a patient of Lina’s many times. Michael was born with a narrow, weak airway, and needed a trachestomy tube to breathe for the first few years of his life. Following a successful airway reconstructive surgery, Michael’s trach has since been removed. Today, he can breathe on his own.
Katie remembers Lina’s support throughout Michael’s journey. Lina was the anesthesiologist during his first diagnostic procedure, a bronchoscopy, in which the medical team first determined what was causing Michael such difficulty breathing. She was also his anesthesiologist the day that Michael needed to have a tracheostomy tube put in.
“We were so relieved when we learned that Lina was going to be with Michael that day,” Katie said. “Her kind, familiar face went such a long way in comforting us.”
“She was special. She didn’t rush from patient to patient, and you always knew that your child’s safety and comfort were her priorities.”
And the day that Michael’s trach was scheduled to come out, Katie remembers Lina sharing in her family’s joy.
“She was so genuinely happy for Michael and for us when his trach came out,” Katie said. “She was someone who took her time and made a personal connection with each family.”
Sharing in celebrations of good news
Lina shared in the joy and relief of many patient families when they received good news about a child’s condition.
Michelle Harding and Scott Foster’s daughters, Makayla (2) and Kloey (1), have been battling a rare pediatric eye cancer with monthly visits from southern Maine to Mass. Eye and Ear for the past two years.
Diagnosed at birth with retinoblastoma, the girls come into the OR to be examined under anesthesia every 4 weeks. If any new tumors are found, the medical team manages them with laser treatments.
Each month brings stress and anxiety for the family, hoping for good news.
While Makayla’s condition has been relatively stable for a while, Kloey’s examinations have consistently revealed new tumors.
Just last month, Kloey was examined by her physician, and for the first time, no new tumors were found. Lina was there to share in the family’s joy.
“She called Kloey ‘the tough one,’” Michelle said. “She knew Kloey was a fighter.”
“Give your child a kiss” before surgery
Several families have mentioned Lina’s calming presence just before putting a child to sleep for surgery.
“She always said, ‘We’ll take good care of her,’ and ‘Give her a kiss,’ before we left the surgery room,” Michelle said. Lina often sang children’s songs with parents just before a procedure.
Lina’s colleague and a surgical nurse at Mass. Eye and Ear, Nancy Kotzuba remembers these moments when Lina would ask children’s parents to offer a little kiss before stepping out of the OR well.
“When she’d put a child to sleep, she’d tell the parents to give the child a kiss before leaving the room,” said Nancy. “Everybody loved her. Her patients loved her and trusted her.”
Carrying children into the OR
She also remembers Lina’s joy in greeting a child for surgery in the morning. Mass. Eye and Ear pediatric anesthesiologist Dr. Nita Sahani recalls Lina carrying children from the pre-op area to the OR – a role that typically the nurses would take on.
“Nurses would joke with her – ‘Can I have this baby for once?’ And she would say, ‘No, I took over first,’” said Dr. Sahani. “She was full of love for every child. She would care for every patient as if he or she were her own baby.”
A star who will sparkle forever
Lina is fondly remembered by colleagues as an energetic force who always provided encouragement to fellow OR staff members.
She was the type of person to whom people were naturally drawn. Her close personal friendships spanned the entirety of the Mass. Eye and Ear community. Many who have shared memories of Lina remember her “infectious joy,” “bubbly spirit” and “wonderful enthusiasm for life.”
During a gathering on the Monday after the tragic events, one colleague remembered Lina as “our little star who will sparkle forever.”
On behalf of the entire Mass. Eye and Ear community, we will keep Lina close to our hearts forever and will honor her memory by continuing to provide the highest level of care that she demonstrated each and every day.
Lina’s family has let us know that they wish for donations in her memory to go to her favorite charity: Neacol, a non-profit that supports social initiatives for the benefit of Colombian children. To make a donation in Lina’s honor, please visit https://neacol.org.