Baby Sherezade was born at just 32 weeks with a malfunctioning heart valve. In short, oxygen rich blood from her lungs couldn’t reach her heart. The baby, weighing just 1,5 kilos, was not expected to survive a single day.
But doctors at Murcia hospital had a plan: they slapped her onto a life support machine and rushed her that same day to Barcelona’s Sant Joan de Déu hospital, pioneers in infantile operations.
There doctors decided that the baby would only survive if a risky operation was carried out. They opened her up, on her second day of life, and operated on her heart.
The operation was amazingly complicated, say the proud doctors. Dr Caffarena, head of the surgical team, added that just 5 years ago they would not have contemplated such a move.
They had to bring her body temperature down to just 16ºC, to prevent brain damage. Then they plugged her into an artificial heart (all the blood in her body would only just fill a large glass tumbler).
They then had to stop her heart for 28 minutes while the repair operation on the valve and vein was carried out.
Sherezade’s heart was the size of a hazelnut. Far too small for robots to work on, it was the firm and steady hands of the doctors who worked on veins as thin as a human hair, and far more fragile, for over three hours.
But the operation, carried out in November, was a success. Within just five days of the operation, Sherezade could breathe by herself, and within a week was transferred to a normal incubator.
Doctors say that she is completely recovered from her operation and although she will have to undergo monthly revisions for the next year, is expected to progress normally.
It’s believed to be the first time in the world that such an operation has been carried out on such a young infant. The only other case known of is on a baby in California who was slightly older, at 35 weeks.