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“Three and a half weeks after his birth was the first time I was able to hold him."

Ryan Paul Salomons was born on the 6th of May 2019. He weighed in at a good 3.78kg and 53cms tall. But Ryan’s story starts long before this day.

"Ryan was a true blessing sent from above. He was not planned but was certainly welcomed with opened arms."

During a routine check up at 12 weeks, the Salomon family’s gynae found cysts on our babies brain. Something he was not worried about but to be safe, felt we should see a fetal specialist as soon as we could.

A 3 day old Ryan

“In January 2019, we visited the fetal specialist who was happy with how our baby was growing and assured us there were no cysts. Our baby had 10 fingers, 10 toes and all his organs in the correct place. She was, however, concerned about the blood flow out of his heart,” shares Bronwyn, “she felt it wasn’t something to be worried about but she would feel more at peace knowing she had done all she could.” The family were referred to Dr Kenny Govenrageloo, a paediatric cardiologist, at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital. “We had an appointment with Dr Kenny the very same week. Very scared of what was to come, we kept our minds open.

“During our first check up at Dr Kenny, he could see that Ryan’s heart had formed perfectly, it had all four chambers and was beating at a good rhythm. He did, however, find that the blood flow out of the heart was not as it should be.” At 16 weeks pregnant, Dr Kenny could see the perfect formation of the Salomons growing little boy and he could see exactly how the blood flowed in and out of their baby boy’s heart. It was at this stage of Bronwyn’s pregnancy that Dr Kenny discovered that the artery carrying the oxygenated blood was not travelling correctly and seemed to be going out of the wrong side. Dr Kenny diagnosed Ryan with ‘Transposition of the great vessels’. A CHD in which the flow of blood into and out of the heart flow through the incorrect arteries.

“Dr Kenny told us that we should move gynaes and find a suitable gynae at Sunninghill as Ryan would need to be born there to have the best opportunity,” shares Bronwyn, who together with her husband, made an appointment as soon as they could to continue the rest of her pregnancy at Sunninghill. “We were seen by Dr Dahms, the gynecologist, from 20 weeks. Dr Dahms was wonderful and we got on very well. She kept a good eye on Ryan and was so impressed with his growth and development.”

At 32 weeks the Salomons visited Dr Kenny again for a check up, which is when he confirmed his diagnoses. “We set a date for the c-section (6th May 2019) and I was told that my job was to get our unborn baby as big and heavy as I could. There was nothing that could be done to help our baby until he was born.

“While in my uterus, he was getting oxygen from me. The flap in his heart that controls the mix of the blood stays open while in utero and only closes within a few hours of being born. Dr Kenny had measured the thickness of the walls of our baby’s heart as well as the wideness of the opening of the flap to allow for mixing. He was concerned as to how thick his walls were and the challenge he would face the day our baby was born.

“Dr Kenny assured us that there was a team of doctors (himself, 2 other cardiologists, our surgeon - Dr Schürmann and other members) to discuss cases before our baby was born. They had a plan for each birth and looked at all the options as well as problems that could happen on the day. Dr Kenny had warned us that Ryan may need to be taken to the Cath lab to insert a balloon to keep the flap in the heart open to allow the blood to mix longer.” Generally when a baby is born, the flap between the two chambers of the heart that allows for the blood to mix, starts to close. This can take up to 48 hours.

Bronwyn had one last check up with Dr Dahms at 36 weeks and then patiently awaited Ryan’s due date. “We knew the road that lay ahead of us,” says Bronwyn, “Dr Kenny had explained every last detail to us of what would happen over the next five days after our baby was born.”

At 38 weeks, on the 6th of May, the Salomons arrived at the hospital ready for day. “We went in for the c-section at 8:30am and Ryan was born at 9:03am. Our baby boy never came out screaming. He was taken by the pediatrician, Dr Halles, and resuscitated in the delivery room. Ryan was then rushed (with his dad by his side) to the NICU where Dr Kenny was waiting for him. Ryan was again resuscitated in the NICU and placed on oxygen. BUT Dr Kenny was not pleased with his progress and decided to rush him to the cath lab to inflate the balloon. Ryan’s flap was closing quicker than expected. His blood was not mixing, which meant he was not receiving oxygenated blood to his body. His blood was circling in his body from his lungs, to his heart and back to his lungs. The blood in his body was circling throughout his body. His body was not receiving oxygenated blood and that was a problem all on its own.

Ryan, one year post op on his first birthday

“Dr Kenny, and Ryan’s dad rushed to open a file for him and get him into the cath lab (a whole series of unfortunate events that unfolded all on its own). Dr Kenny was unable to insert the balloon successfully as the walls of Ryan’s heart were too thick. Our baby boy was resuscitated for the third time in the cath lab. Dr Kenny knew something needed to be done and in a hurry.”

On his way back up to the NICU, Dr Krisnee Naidoo - the anaesthetist came to Dr Kenny and asked where she could help as they had heard of the commotion with the newest baby,” shares Bronwyn who informs of how Dr Kenny, “always tells of how things just fell into plan, God’s plan was there for Ryan all along.

“Dr Kenny and Dr Schürmann came to see me recovering in the ward (not having seen my baby boy again since his arrival). They came to explain that they needed to take Ryan in to surgery as soon as they could. Dr Schürmann came in calmly and with confidence. He explained the entire process of what was about to unfold.” Bronwyn’s husband and father were taken to CTICU to see the set up and were explained as to what would happen once the surgery was completed, hoping all went well. “I told them to do what they needed to save my baby. A 5 day plan to save our baby had turned into a 3 hour plan.

“The theatre was being prepared as they spoke to me, explaining what needed to be done. Ryan would be their youngest patient ever to receive the ‘switch’. They had never performed surgery on such a young baby, but he was definitely not the smallest. He had his weight on his side to pull him through and fight.”

Ryan’s surgery started at 12:30pm (only 3 and a half hours old) and so the Salomons’ waiting game began. “Fortunately, Dr Naidoo had taken my husband’s number and messaged him twice during surgery to let us know that all was going okay and baby was stable.”

Ryan will be two on the 6th of May 2021

Ryan was moved to CTICU at about 5:30pm, stable but with the doctors on high alert.

“And so our rollercoaster began. We had many highs and lows.” Ryan needed to have a 2nd procedure due to the diaphragm collapsing. Ryan stayed in CTICU for three and a half weeks until the 31st of May. The day before he was discharged was the first time Bronwyn was able to hold him. “Ryan fought everyday. He was a fighter then and is a fighter still.”

Ryan will be two years old on the 6th of May 2021. “He is full of life and brings joy and laughter into our home. He loves his siblings and cares for everyone in his life. He has reached all his milestones with ease and is very busy.”

Ryan had his two year cardiology check up in April this year with Dr Kenny, “who is so happy with Ryan’s progress.

“Ryan showed us what strength was. We dug deep and had faith on days we felt defeated. We had to show our heart warrior that we were rooting for him. We are so very grateful to all the doctors who operated and cared for and continue to care for Ryan, for all the nurses and staff at the CTICU Sunninghill. Our Thank you will never be enough.”

Bronwyn and Ryan at his two year check up appointment with Dr Kenny


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