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Kate Eva's Heart Journey


In January 2018 Kate’s parents, Vernon and Melissa Eva, were ecstatic to find out that they were expecting Kate - their first baby and the first grandchild in the family. The good news came just one week before Vernon and Melissa’s exciting two week European holiday. So…. Kate got to stowaway in Mom’s tummy and visited nine European countries. Mom got to experience morning sickness all throughout Europe. What a treat! Dr Kalliopi Kyriazis at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital was Melissa’s obstetrician, and how fortuitous this turned out to be, the very hospital that had the world class cardiologist team that were soon to become an unforgettable part of the Evas’ lives. Just after 20 weeks of pregnancy Dr. Kyriazis felt concerned about baby Kate’s heart and referred Melissa to pediatric cardiologist, Dr Jeff Harrisberg, also at Sunninghill Hospital. Much to Vernon and Melissa’s distress, Dr. Harrisberg diagnosed Kate with Atrioventricular Sepatal Defect (AVSD). Dr Kyriazis was of course right by our sides to comfort us. Although in full health throughout the pregnancy, Vernon and Melissa were constantly worried about what would happen once Kate was born. Kate’s birth on September 12th, 2018 was of course arranged in advance and well orchestrated, with all the necessary doctors ready to do their part. We will never forget how surprised we were to see how much spiky dark hair she had at birth! Post birth, Kate was further diagnosed with a narrowing of the aorta as well as situs inversus and dextrocardia (a condition in which the arrangement of the internal organs is a mirror image of normal anatomy), Kate is a very unique baby indeed! At 4 days old the NICU was very accommodating in allowing Kate to be baptised as per her parents wishes, prior to her first big surgery.

Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Dr Viljee Jonker, completed Kate’s first open heart surgery when she was just 5 days old, a coarctation of the aorta and banding of the pulmonary artery. Dr. Andrew Tresling, the Specialist Anaesthesiologist, really helped settle the family’s fears by providing almost hourly SMS updates from the OR. The surgery went as planned and Kate spent a month in the CTICU at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital in recovery. The doctors and CTICU nurses were angels, and Sister Doris Mokete was noticeably lovely and gentle with Kate. At exactly one month old Kate was thankfully sent home for the very first time, to very excited and loving family and friends, all eagerly awaiting to meet Kate, of course with lots hand washing and sterilizing (in a pre-pandemic world). She enjoyed lots of love from her grandparents, her uncles, her Godmother and her loving nanny, Farai. Kate’s development was slow and she particularly battled with weight gain and drinking her milk. She had naturally lost a bit of weight post surgery so was actually lighter when she left the hospital, than when she was born. She was put on a high calorie milk which was of great assistance to help her develop and grow. Dr. Harrisburg continued to consult with Kate on a regular basis to ensure her progress and development. A fairly frequent occurrence with children who have had major surgery or been born prematurely, Kate’s motor and physical development took slightly longer than expected, and she attended physiotherapy in Bedfordview, which was a great assistance to her development. At the age of just over one year old Kate had her second heart surgery to repair her AVSD and to remove the pulmonary artery band, this surgery was performed by Dr Erich Schürmann. Another grueling open heart surgery and Kate is placed back into CTICU for recovery, where she is reunited with the lovely nurses including Sister Doris Mokete. Much to her parents’ astonishment, Kate recovers well from the surgery and is released from hospital just 5 days after her surgery. From there Kate has never looked back. She was soon back to crawling and started walking and talking. We celebrate Kate’s heartiversary every 12th of November, the date of her last heart surgery. She has a delightful personality and a wicked sense of humor. She loves singing and dancing, and one of her favorite songs is Queen’s We will rock you. The Eva family emigrated to Toronto, Canada in 2021, where we hope to someday cross paths with Dr Jonker again, as he is also located in Canada. Kate is now 3 and a half years old and still has her regular check ups at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. The Eva and Ontong family forever will be grateful and in awe of the miracle workers at Maboneng Heart and Lung Institute and Netcare Sunninghill Hospital; and all who have a part to play in these amazing heart journeys.


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