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Raheel's Journey of Open Heart Surgeries

First Surgery – The Ox Patch

Raheel was born with a congenital heart defect and at the age of 3 months had to go for his first open heart surgery. 2010 was a special a year for us as the FIFA World Cup was hosted in South Africa and Raheel had his lifesaving operation. As a parent, it was quite a lot to digest when Dr Kenny Govendrageloo gave us the unexpected news that Raheel will have to go for open heart surgery to close a hole in his heart. With no hesitation, we placed our faith in Maboneng Heart and Lung Institute and Netcare Sunninghill Hospital to perform the procedure to repair the defect Atrial Septal Defect (ASD), Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) and closed off the Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO). The medical team were happy with the outcome of the operation and deemed it successful. While in the waiting room during the procedure we chatted with other parents who had more complicated procedures for their children, we considered Raheel fortunate. Raheel was in surgery with that was also scheduled with another child in different theatres. The procedure felt like eternity but Raheel came out much later as there was an issue in stabilizing his heart rhythm. It was sad to hear that the child who was in theatre the same time as Raheel had to go back into surgery as her body rejected the patch and she passed away the same day. It is a parent plight as there is never certainty in life…and the pain endured by all, parents and children face with these challenges.

Raheal finished in the top 5 of his grade only 2 months after his surgery and is a beacon of strength and inspiration to children in similar situations.

We also consider our self to be fortunate as we had a medical aid that will cover the medical expense as we looked at another young boy in his older teens suffering in pain. He was given a lifeline by the hospital to undergo a procedure, and it saddens us to see this this poor child going through these suffering over all the years which took a toll on his body.

Second Surgery – Bionic Valve

Over the years Raheel healed well and grew up to be a healthy normal boy. We were so sure that this child had overcome his early hurdles but on a routine check-up it was picked up that over all these years his right side of his heart grew bigger than the left as a cause of his first surgery, one of the stiches caught a leaflet. As Dr Kenny said that this was not normal and will have to undergo another procedure Tricuspid Valve Repair (TVR). As his parents we were told that this will be discussed by the team of doctors and will be schedule towards end of the year. How does a parent live, knowing that your child will have a heart failure at any time? It seemed that all the stars were lining up and we were called a week later so that from his first procedure to do an investigation and a week later we were scheduled to do the TVR procedure with repair as the primary goal. The school allowed Raheel to be off school based on his strong academic record and continue online schooling after his procedure. He was motivated after his operation to do well and finished top 5 in the grade. Raheel’s second open heart surgery was led by humble, genius of a doctor Dr Hendrick Mamorare and the procedure lasted a total of six hours with a repair first but was not successful. His valve had been eroded and the surgery ended up as a valve replacement. Raheel received an artificial valve - a pericardial bio prosthetic heart valve - to help with the flow and flushing of blood through, into and from the heart. It was a traumatic procedure but after a week he walked out of Netcare Sunninghill Hospital with an adult size tricuspid valve. “A young boy with a big and strong heart”. The future we hope that the technology of nonabrasive surgery is brought into South Africa so that children like Raheel who will do a replacement of his flaps/leaflet could be done through catheterization. The scars of the surgery are noticeable but from a quote by Craig Scott:

“From every wound there is a scar, and every scar tells a story. A story that says, “I survived.” “

Raheel, the YouTuber and gamer is ready to make it in the big league and is now motivated to be the next Elon Musk... We would like to thank the medical staff, cardiologist, surgeons, perfusionist, anesthesiologist, nurses of the Foundation and Sunninghill Hospital for all what they have done for Raheel, not once but twice… We are forever grateful to our family and friends that stood by us, as well as to Raheel’s school. We cannot tell this story without making mention of Raheel’s incredible best friend - they were instant friends from the moment they met in Grade RR. She was his strength… more than what we were able to give him. We feel like we owe that little girl so much. She stood by Raheel and never left him. If the pathway of a warrior shows us anything, it is that we all land on earth with a Guardian Angel or two.


Photographs taken by The Lutchman Family and shared with permission.


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