Baby Ashleigh Louw was still in a critical but stable condition in the intensive-care unit of the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital on Thursday, the hospital’s clinical manager said.
“This is not unexpected as there are so many other abnormalities within the heart … it’s just a matter of reviewing her every 24 hours,” Dr Pungie Lingham said.
The little girl was born with her heart outside her chest, covered by a thin layer of skin.
“She would not just improve overnight,” Lingham said. “Her condition has not changed … she is not a normal baby … she is a very sick child. Various assessments are taking place. There’s intense monitoring by specialists and super-specialists.”
Surgeons successfully operated on Ashleigh on Sunday. They closed the internal abdominal wall with a patch and put the heart back in her chest, although not in its normal position because of fears this could trigger cardiac arrest.
Ashleigh’s rare condition is known as Pentalogy of Cantrell, a congenital abnormality that affects about one in a million babies. The condition consists of five associated problems, including structural abnormalities of the heart and defects in the covering of the heart, the diaphragm, sternum (breastbone) and of the anterior abdominal wall.
Her heart only functions on one valve. The other valve was undeveloped.
Cardiologist Professor Antoinette Cilliers said they would have to re-channel her blood flow. However, these procedures would only be performed when she was stronger.
The hospital dismissed claims it had no capacity to deal with such a complex case.
“We are not short of skills, capacity or infrastructure,” newly appointed CEO Johanna More told journalists during a visit by the health minister on Monday. — Sapa