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Heart Warrior Mialinke: I Believe in Miracles

At a 24 week routine sonar scan, the Niemand’s received news that would forever mark a before and after in their lives. “The radiologist informed us that the little girl we were so excited to meet had a cleft lip”. To add to it all, the right side of the beating heart inside Janita Niemand’s womb was underdeveloped and not working. The growing family were referred to a maternal foetal specialist, where they were advised to terminate the pregnancy due to the high risk of stillbirth.

Paediatric cardiologist, Dr Jeff Harrisberg was the next stop on the journey the Niemand’s had begun to embark on. “We asked to be referred for a second opinion,” explains Janita, “Dr Harrisberg diagnosed a congenital cardiac abnormality with D-TGV, 2 large VSDs, Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome, hypoplastic tricuspid valve, a cleft lip and a single umbilical artery.” Well aware of the risks, Dr Harrisberg expressed a confidence in himself and the skills of the Maboneng Heart and Lung Institute team to pull the Niemand’s unborn warrior through. It was enough for Mialinke to be given a chance to pave her way in the world. Sixteen weeks after first hearing the news, the Niemand’s saw their little girl move from the cocoon comfort of the womb into the world - by ceasarian section - where her wings and ability to flourish would be put to the test. Nine days as a butterfly - but not quite yet ready to fly - Mialinke was taken into theatre with Maboneng’s team led by cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr Viljee Jonker, for her first of many surgeries. The pulmonary artery banding performed by Dr Jonker meant Mialinke could finally flap her wings, and she was discharged to return home for the first time 17 days after emerging from the warm enclosure of her mom.

Almost one year on from her first freeing surgery, Mialinke returned to Netcare Sunninghill Hospital to strengthen her wings once more. One year old Mialinke’s second open heart surgery, the Glenn Shunt procedure, was again performed by Jonker, this time a treatment for her Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome (HRHS). An incredibly rare congenital heart disease (CHD) often causing those infants affected to appear blue, all due to an underdeveloped right side of the heart resulting in an extremely low flow of blood to the lungs. The operation the second in a series of three required for treatment. “Dr Jonker and his team were very happy after the procedure,” remembers Janita, “four days after surgery, Dr Jonker was so impressed with her healing progress and decided that she was ready to be transferred from ICU to the high care room in the paediatric ward.” The Niemand’s recall, with immense pride, Dr Harrisberg’s surprise at seeing their little heart warrior in paediatric ward so soon after surgery, as an ICU stay after open heart operations generally last ten days. In between the accumulation of her heart warrior battle wounds, Mialinke underwent a successful operation to repair her cleft lip. “It has been a tough road so far, but all so worth it.” The Niemand family express a deep gratitude to their faith and the Maboneng Heart and Lung Institute team - “they made it possible for us to have hope and to see a future for Mialinke”.

“We are so blessed and thankful to have had this journey thus far and know we have Maboneng Heart and Lung Institute who we can rely on. Mialinke is doing excellently and meeting all her milestone just like other kids. We have great support from family and friends and the heart warrior Whatsapp group with other warrior moms all over South Africa.”


© Maboneng Heart and Lung Institute 2018 | Images: Janita Niemand and Rory Boon

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