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Luhan and his Bunny Undergo Open Heart Surgery

Little Luhan’s Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) was discovered when he was one day old. It was thought that the hole between the two lower chambers of his heart was insignificant in size and his parents were told “to not worry; that there was nothing much to do; it’s too small and not dangerous”. Alicia and Luhan visited his cardiologist every three months for the first year of his life, and when Luhan turned one, his check-ups were reduced to one a year. “When he was four, his cardiologist at the time only wanted to see us again when he was six,” says Alicia.

When Luhan arrived at his sixth year of life, Covid arrived too, and the de Beer family were not able to attend their check-up. “Luhan ended up testing positive for Covid in May [2022] and by the end of July his teacher sent a letter home asking us to go for a check-up,” shares Alicia, “as he was always tired and struggling to concentrate”. At the beginning of August, Alicia took Luhan to their family gp, who then referred them to another cardiologist. That is when the de Beer family discovered that their little boy’s VSD was, in fact, 4mm in circumference and positioned right under the aortic valve. “It’s location made is difficult to measure, so there was also a chance that it was bigger”. They were referred to Maboneng Heart and Lung Institute. On the 27th of September 2022, Luhan went into theater with Dr Erich Schürmann and the Maboneng team. “We also met Dr Janine Meares [paediatric cardiologist] on the day of Luhan’s admission. She did some sonars and tests and said that the hole looked bigger than 4mm. “It was a big shock to us… to hear that he had to have an op on his heart and that it needed to be an open heart surgery because of the size and location. It was a lot to handle at the time, especially since my dad was also going in for a triple bypass and my mom had been admitted for kidney failure.” Luhan’s open heart surgery lasted three and a half hours. “I was a wreck when I took him into theater,” shares Alicia, who mentions that his favourite toy - his bunny - got to go into theater with him, “after they put him to sleep, they took us to the CTICU and showed us which bed was his and where he would be straight after his op. “I was really impressed with the service we got. The nurses are so professional and know what they are doing. With my dad being in hospital for his bypass surgery, we had two hospital experiences at the same time and you cannot compare the two with each other. [Netcare] Sunninghill Hospital just stood out so much”.

At 14h30, Alicia and her husband, Lukas, were called into the CTICU where “Dr Schürmann and Luhan’s anaethetist, Dr Naidoo, were waiting to explain everything and how the surgery went. Dr Schurmann also said that the hole was even bigger than what the tests and sonar had shown, but everything went well. They had even brought Luhan’s bunny back to CTICU and had put a plaster on it. So the bunny also had an ‘op’. I thought it was very sweet and it really meant so much to me that they took the time to ‘operate’ on a bunny.” Luhan and his bunny spent three days in CTICU and seven days in total recovering in hospital before heading home. “He is doing very well. I was actually very surprised,” shares Alicia, who mentions that their biggest challenge now is trying to keep a very busy boy still. “We are going for a check-up tomorrow [13 October 2022] to remove his stitches. We will also hear then when he can go back to school but initially we were told that he would need to be home for six weeks”. Alicia also mentions the Little Hearts Initiative - a connection platform created by two mom’s with heart warriors themselves - which Liesl shared with them when sending the medical aid authorisation codes. “I shared our story and everyone showed support. They messaged us on the day of Luhan’s surgery and prayed for us. I really appreciated it. The admins of the facebook page even check-in every day with all the heart warriors”. The de Beer family are so grateful to have their little boy and his bunny back home. “Thank you so much for allowing us to share our story,” says Alicia, with an open and humble heart.

Photographs taken by Alicia de Beer and shared with permission.


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