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“She is the reason we believe in miracles.”

The Chetty family’s baby girl, Briélle, was born on the 23 of December 2019 to her first time parents, Meleta and Malcolm. A “big baby” weighing in at 4.1kgs at her arrival. For the first few days of her life, the Chetty’s newborn experienced trouble breathing, which was initially believed to have been caused by low blood sugar levels. But after three days, their paediatrician connected with Dr Kenny Govendrageloo who confirmed Briélle had a heart defect.

Briélle was diagnosed with Swiss Cheese by paediatric cardiologist, “Dr Kenny”. A term used to describe the presence of multiple Ventral Septal Defects (VSDs). “We couldn’t understand, even though Dr Kenny was explaining it to us,” recalls Meleta, “throughout my pregnancy, we had no issues at all. I was in shock.” Briélle was additionally diagnosed with an Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) and Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA). “Dr Kenny tried to initially treat Briélle’s condition with medication,” shares Meleta, “there was slight improvement, but we were told that we didn’t have time to wait, as there was pressure on Briélle’s lungs. Because of this, she also wasn’t able to suck and couldn’t drink milk, so she was put on a feeding tube”. On the 3rd of January 2020, Briélle was transferred to Netcare Sunninghill Hospital in an ambulance. She needed to undergo open heart surgery. “It was the worst day of my life to see my newborn baby in an ambulance,” says Meleta, “and we had to follow. When we stopped, she looked happy… she was so happy to be in there”. Her first surgery was a ligation - a surgical procedure whereby a blood vessel is tied closed tightly with a ligature - and a temporary band on the 6th of January 2020. “She was too small for her surgeons to perform a permanent repair, so we knew she would need to come back for her permanent repair at around 12 - 18 months. The operation was a success, and it was mind blowing to see our baby like that.” The Chetty’s navigated CTICU recovery for three weeks, which was made all the more difficult due to the fact that Briélle couldn’t suck and wasn’t able to drink milk. “The speech therapist came in to support and assist us and Briélle, and eventually she was able to latch… although she drank very slowly. “I convinced Dr Schürmann to let our baby come home… I had time and could take my time letting her feed. We were so happy to be going home”. Briélle was three weeks old when she finally arrived home. She was home for seven days before Meleta noticed that something was not right with their little girl. “She started getting crabby and could not stop crying… so many people told me that it was just colic, but as a mother, you know when something is wrong with your baby”. Meleta suspected it was connected to her chest wound, which is when she called Liesl at Maboneng Heart and Lung Institute. Meleta rushed Briélle to Sunninghill and she was taken to the wound clinic. The Chetty’s were discharged, yet Meleta still felt unsettled. Briélle was still crying incessantly and only drinking 45ml of milk at each feed. That night, no-one in the Chetty family slept. The next morning, Meleta and her husband rushed Briélle to her hospital of birth where it was discovered that her blood count was over 400. “We were rushed to Sunninghill again,” says Meleta, “Dr Schürmann was unable to see us that Sunday morning, so thankfully Dr Martin Myburgh was able to attend to Briélle. “Dr Myburgh explained that he would have to cut her open again to clean an infection that had developed. They opened her to the sternum and left her chest open for seven days,” says Meleta, “she was on the VAC [Vacuum-Assisted Closure] machine” which is a wound therapy that works by decreasing the air pressure around a wound to assist in healing. Briélle was in CTICU for another three weeks. “I believe through prayer - we had tons of people and our church praying with us - we received a miracle… our baby really is a miracle baby”. The second time around, Meleta felt a bit of anxiety at the thought of taking their little girl home again, concerned about what would happen and if they would experience something similar. “It was all just very traumatic,” shares Meleta, “but taking her home the second time turned out to really be a joy for me. She was perfect, happy and healthy. She was everything I had ever wanted and she was home!” Just before their little girl’s first birthday, the Chetty’s had a scheduled check-up appointment with Dr Kenny. “It was November 2020 when Dr Kenny performed Briélle’s angiogram, due to her band, and this is when he told us that it needed to be removed and a permanent repair should be done”. Briélle’s band had shifted slightly, which was causing damage to some of her other arteries. “The band had done what it was intended for and could now be removed”. Briélle was scheduled for her second open heart surgery - this time for a permanent and final repair - the following week, the third of November. “When we arrived the day before her op to check her in, we were met by Dr Schürmann and Dr Krishnee Naidoo - she is the best, she just understands you... They told us that they were expecting the op to last about 5 hours and they reassured us that everything would be fine. It was a big op, because it was a bypass - she would go on the heart-lung machine”. On the day of her permanent repair, the Chetty’s spent the morning in and out of prayer while they waited for their baby girl to be wheeled out from the theatre. “I believe in miracles,” says Meleta, “but we were shocked… Two and a half hours after the start time, Dr Naidoo messaged us to say we’re done. We had also been informed that she would be on a ventilator after surgery, but she arrived in CTICU on oxygen only. “When we met with Dr Schürmann after surgery, he said to us, 'the op turned our to be a small procedure. There wasn’t a lot of work to do. Briélle was only on the heart-lung machine for about 18 minutes’”. Even though everything had gone well, and the Chetty family were exceptionally grateful, Meleta shares that “the second time around was much more difficult than the first, because she was older. She knew who we were”. They had expected her to be in CTICU recovery for at least ten days, so were taken by surprise when she was discharged three days after surgery. “I was scared,” admits Meleta, “but she was such a strong girl. She ate so well on that first day home and started to play almost immediately. It was a challenge, mostly for me, because all of her other recoveries had been in the hospital where the nurses knew exactly what to do and what they were doing. It was all new to me”. Briélle is “doing so well” at home, just short of one year after her permanent repair. “Dr Kenny says that she is a ‘normal baby’ now… she still has a slight murmur but it is very, very mild. She is intelligent and understands every single thing, and Dr Kenny only wants to see her again when she is three years old! “I feel that God gave me the perfect child. Yes, she wasn’t ‘perfect’ at first, but we were able to make her ‘perfect’. She is a true blessing to us. The sweetest little girl. We feel so lucky. We are eternally grateful to Dr Kenny, Briélle's surgeons and all of the CTICU staff that cared for our little girl. “She is the reason we believe in miracles.”



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