Baby Ashleigh Louw, who was born with her heart outside her chest, is showing small signs of improvement in the intensive care unit at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, the hospital's clinical manager said on Tuesday.
"She is beginning to move her fingers, hands, toes and feet," Dr Pungie Lingham said. "She is also currently tube fed, and remains under sedation so that her body is not stressed any further...[the] baby remains fairly stable."
The little girl was born last month with her heart outside her chest, covered by a thin layer of skin. "There is still intense monitoring by specialists and super-specialists," said Lingham.
Surgeons successfully operated on Ashleigh days after her birth. They closed the internal abdominal wall with a patch and put the heart back in her chest, although not in its normal position because of fears this could trigger cardiac arrest.
'She is a fighter'
Ashleigh'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.
Her heart functions on only one valve. The other valve was undeveloped.
In recent reports, Ashleigh's mother Anastacia Louw said: "My daughter is getting better each time I see her. Doctors tell me that she is very sick, but I know that she will pull through. She is a fighter. She opened her eyes for the first time at the weekend and I was so happy I cried. It gave me hope that she was on her way to recovery." - (Sapa, February 2010)