Heart Health

Updated 09 July 2019

Durban mom devastated after newborn diagnosed with heart defect given just months to live

The last thing a new mom wants to hear is that her baby has only a few months to live.

The last thing a new mom wants to hear is that her baby has only a few months to live.

But that’s the reality Roxanne Pennington faced when hearing her newborn daughter, Hollyn, suffered from a heart defect and had only six months to live.

The 32-year-old mother from Pinetown, Durban, welcomed her precious little girl two months premature on 16 February. 

She knew something was wrong when she was sent back and forth to numerous specialists without being told why, Roxanne said.

“When Hollyn was born doctors suspected she had Down syndrome,” Roxanne said to YOU.

And while the mother of four and Hollyn’s father, Kerwin Fortein, still await the Down syndrome test results, the pair have had to face the sad reality that their little one, now four months old, might not live much longer.

“We were told by a doctor just a couple of days after she was born and after countless doctor’s visits that Hollyn has two holes and a leak in her heart.” 

The two holes which are each 7mm wide are a result of a heart defect known as atrioventricular septal defect (ASD) which begins during the first eight weeks of foetal development as a hollow tube and becomes partitions which result in holes in the atrial and ventricular walls of the heart, according to Boston Children's Hospital.

“We were referred to Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital, but with 400 other babies waiting to undergo the same procedure chances are slim Hollyn will make it [to surgery] on time,” Roxanne explained.

“This is why we’ve opted for the private route to get her the open-heart surgery [she needs] but this costs R400 000, and that’s just for the bare minimum.”

Roxanne said Hollyn is always smiling and playing despite her delayed development.

“Every once in a while she stops breathing and we have to turn her over on her side so she can get air. Just a month ago she had cardiac failure, but she’s since been placed on treatment,” the mom said.  

 (Photo: Supplied)

As Hollyn fast reaches the six-month mark, Roxanne expressed the agony of possibly losing her daughter.

“It’s really scary thinking about it because even if she has the surgery, we were told upfront by doctors that there is no guarantee [she’ll survive].”

In an attempt to save their daughter’s life, the parents have started a crowd-funding campaign.

“Currently we’re sitting just above R18 000 and we’d really appreciate it if people could not only dig into their pockets but also their hearts to give our daughter a fighting chance to live.”

Boston Children’s Hospital