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Jan-Hendrik's Journey


In 2015, after seven years of trying for a second child, we received the news that our miracle baby (Jan-Hendrik) would arrive in September. Little did we know that our baby boy would be a double-miracle... Jan-Hendrik was born with Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA). This is a birth defect which the experts would better explain, but in essence, it means that the main arteries between the heart, lungs and body are connected the wrong way around, meaning oxygen is not distributed to the body. As a result, Jan-Hendrik was born blue and had to be connected to oxygen in Neonatal ICU since his first day of life.


We were unaware that something such as TGA existed and were shocked and deeply saddened to be informed that our baby would not have any chance at life should he not receive surgery to correct this defect. We were incredibly grateful, however, to learn that a handful of surgeons in South Africa are available and qualified to perform the required procedure.


On the 28th Septmeber 2015, Jan-Hendrik was transported to Netcare Sunninghill Hospital and taken to the Cardio-Thoracic Intensive Care Unit (CTICU), six days after his birth (22 September 2015). The morning following his arrival at Netcare Sunninghill, on the 29th September 2015, Dr Erich Schürmann operated on Jan-Hendrik for six hours. I recall those six hours as the longest of my life, as we had been informed that babies did not always survive this procedure. Part of the surgery entails a heart bypass, which means that the heart is stopped for the procedure. The anesthetist, Dr Krishnee Naidoo, who performed this procedure is extremely gifted. She exuded confidence when we met her and kept us calm by sending updates throughout the procedure.


We were exceptionally thankful that the operation was concluded successfully, but were completely blindsided and unprepared for the difficulty the next three weeks of recovery, in the CTICU, held for us.

During the three weeks, there were a couple of instances where Jan-Hendrik’s body did not respond positively to the recovery process and his life seemed to still be uncertain. We are extremely grateful to the angels (CTICU sisters) who looked after him, day and night, during this period and sometimes even shed a tear with us. In particular I would like to mention Sisters Shirley, Nokuthemba and Lillian.


On 19 October 2015, after three weeks in ICU, Jan-Hendrik was finally discharged, sporting a healthy pink glow and sparkling eyes - a different baby from the blue, dull-eyed baby boy who went in for surgery. We expected that our baby would be a little different from others due to the ordeal he had been through, but we were so mistaken! Jan-Hendrik will be two years-old on 22 September 2017 and is enjoying life to the full! He does not walk, but runs everywhere and also avoids going to bed until everyone else have passed out. Except for the scar on his chest and the murmur of his heart that can still be heard through a stethoscope, there is no remainder or reminder of his heart defect and he has been given a new chance at life.

We are eternally grateful to the handful of super specialists at Maboneng Heart and Lung Institute who dedicate their lives and offer up their own work-life balance, sleep, relaxation and family time to save the lives of others.


I hope that this story will bring hope to parents who still need to go through what we went through.

 

© Maboneng Heart and Lung Institute 2017 | Featured Image: Maboneng Heart and Lung Institute

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