Heart Health

20 January 2010

Baby Ashleigh still critical

Various assessments are being conducted on baby Ashleigh Louw, who on Tuesday remains fairly critical but stable in the intensive care unit of the Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital.

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Various assessments are being conducted on baby Ashleigh Louw, who on Tuesday remains fairly critical, but stable in the intensive care unit of the Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital. 

The hospital's clinical manager Dr Pungie Lingham said the little girl, born 11 days ago with her heart outside her chest and covered by a thin layer of skin, would not just improve overnight as she was "a  baby with a number of abnormalities. 

"Her condition has not changed from yesterday [Monday].  She is not a normal baby, she has a number of abnormalities, she is a very sick child. Various assessments are taking place. There's intense monitoring by specialists and super-specialists," said Lingham. 

Surgeons successfully operated on Ashley on Sunday.  They closed the internal abdominal wall with a patch and put the heart back in her chest. 

They could however not put back the heart in its normal position because of fears it would have been the end of the little girl. 

Family still hopeful

Ashley's rare condition is known as Pentalogy of Cantrell, a congenital abnormality that affects about one in a million babies. The condition consists of five associated problems, including structural abnormalities of the heart and defects in the covering of the heart, the diaphragm, sternum (breastbone) and of the anterior abdominal wall. 

According to academic literature, she has a 50% chance of survival, but her family live with hope that their little girl will pull through. 

Doctor's main concern was with the defects of Ashley's heart, which only operates on one valve. The other valve was undeveloped.  Cardiologist Professor Antoinette Cilliers said because doctors could not replace it, they would have to re-channel the blood flow. 

However, this and other procedures on her heart would only be performed at a later stage when she was stronger. The hospital dismissed claims that it had no capacity to deal with such a complex case. 

"We are not short of skills, capacity nor infrastructure," its newly appointed CEO Johanna More told journalists during a visit by the health minister on Monday. - (Sapa, January 2010)

 

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