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"I felt like my body had not only failed me, but my child as well"


The flock of pure white storks delivered baby Mikayla Keyser 14 weeks earlier than expected to her eager first time parents. At just 26 weeks - a micro prem baby - 800 gram Mikayla was a delicate piece of heaven from the start. Baby Keyser’s heart was examined soon after her birth by paediatric cardiologist, Dr Greenwood Sinyangwe, who diagnosed her with patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). A heart defect in which abnormal blood flow occurs between two of the major arteries connected to the heart due to an opening in the ductus arteriosus, the blood vessel connecting the hearts two major arteries. A second examination by a lung specialist confirmed that the Keyser’s little warrior had also taken on the challenge of hypertension - a life-threatening condition in newborns, caused by the failure of the blood circulation to change from fetal to normal once a baby has left the uterus. Devastated by the news, new mom Natasha felt a deep guilt for her daughters condition, constantly asking herself: What if I have done something differently while I was pregnant? Would that have made any difference? Am I to blame for her condition? Why if I was so healthy during my pregnancy does she have this defect? “I felt like my body had not only failed me, but my child as well”.

Mikayla was prescribed medication in an initial attempt to treat her PDA, hoping the duct would close in its own time. For the Keyser’s, accepting that their little girls medication was not working was one of the most difficult parts of their heart journey, as it meant they had to accept and agree to heart surgery to be performed on their baby’s little body. “The thought of not knowing what was going to happen next was so difficult… we constantly lived in fear; waiting in anticipation for the medicine to work” “Our greatest source of strength has been the love and support of family, the helpful hospital staff and believing that the Lord will help us through it all,” shares Natasha, “as a mother and partner, I had to be strong, patient, understanding and do anything that was necessary and asked from me to do.” Now 4 months old and five times heavier than she was at her birth, Mikayla reminds her budding family to treasure the little moments in life - “they often seem insignificant in that moment in time but end up having great impact on your life. [We’ve been reminded] not to take anything for granted and to spend as much time as possible with the ones we love”. “It’s been a journey,” says Natasha, “I’m so glad she’s healthy now and that she is doing well. She is the epitome of hope, love, happiness and strength”. Mikayla went into theatre alongside cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr Viljee Jonker on 6 April 2018 and was discharged from Netcare Sunninghill Hospital twelve days later. “Positive thinking allows for positive things to happen,” says Natasha when reflecting on how she navigated her way through the emotional storm of paediatric heart defects, “it can be overwhelming, stressful and extremely tiring. You feel so down and helpless. Accept the support and love of your family, friends and the hospital staff… and trust in your faith. You will find the strength, hope and assurance you need to know that in the end, everything is really going to be better than just okay.” Form the Keyser family to you: never underestimate the power of prayer; always believe in yourself and never lose hope.

 

© Maboneng Heart and Lung Institute 2018 | Images: Natasha Van Aswegen

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