With each passing week, Mrs. Grace Nzioka felt her infant's heartbeat change. 9-month-old Baby Israel’s heart murmur, with an extra sound called a "thrill," grew more and more pronounced. "I could feel it on my chest when I nursed her," Grace recalls, "like there was something moving in her chest, almost like a butterfly."
Baby Israel was diagnosed with a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD), a hole in the tissue between the heart's lower chambers, as an infant. After this diagnosis, doctors monitored her heart with fetal echocardiograms, waiting to see if the hole would close on its own. Unfortunately, that never happened, and over the months Baby Israel’s VSD further developed complications and there were signs of Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA), a heart defect found in the days or weeks after birth.
Born 8 pounds and 9 ounces, Baby Israel over the months gained weight and maintained healthy skin color. The murmur and shallow breathing, particularly during nursing, were the only signs something was wrong. “The doctors back home recommended that we wait for around six months for the VSD to close, however after six months and no signs of improvement, Baby Israel’s primary cardiologist suggested we find treatment in India,” recalls Grace.
After going through multiple options, Grace finally came in touch with a Vaidam Case Manager. “Our Case Manager seemed genuinely concerned about Baby Israel’s health situation and was quick to offer assistance in the form of advice,” said Grace. “We sent her all our medical reports up-till now to have them evaluated by medical experts in India. After going through the multiple treatment options that our Case Manager put before us, we decided to go with Fortis Escorts Heart Institute in New Delhi.”
On 17th of July, Baby Israel arrived in New Delhi accompanied by her mother Grace Nzioka. The very next day Dr. Krishna S Iyer evaluated Baby Israel. After the fetal echo, Dr. Iyer had difficult news.
Because of its shape and location, the VSD was unlikely to close. In some cases, open heart surgery to fix a VSD is postponed if the infant needs to gain strength. In Baby Israel’s case, because she was otherwise healthy, the team recommended surgery soon. Within the very same afternoon, the doctors scheduled a surgery for the next day after taking the necessary consent of Grace.
The next day, Baby Israel had a full evaluation, including a fetal echocardiogram and an electrocardiogram. “This was by far the most difficult day for us, but the hospital staff was extremely helpful and caring throughout the process, said Grace. “In the midst of all this awful stuff we kept thinking: At least we're here.”
Shortly a nurse took Baby Israel and mother Grace to the Cardiac Preparation and Recovery Unit of one of the best pediatric heart surgery hospital in India, where they met Dr. Iyer, again. "We were extremely worried, counting the minutes until we had to hand her away,” said Grace. "Then Dr. Iyer came in and gave us a sense of calm. I took one look at his smile and I thought, 'everything is going to be alright'."
The surgery lasted for more than two hours. During the procedure, Dr. Iyer repaired the VSD with a synthetic fibre patch, stitching it over the hole. Dr. Iyer also stitched closed a small hole between the upper chambers which would later relieve excess strain on the heart.
After what seemed like an eternity, Dr Iyer - one of the top Pediatric Cardiologist in India, finally exited the operation theatre with a big smile on his face, “his words when he came to me were – ‘everything will be fine’, and that was the biggest relief I have felt in a long time.” Four days after surgery, Baby Israel was discharged from the hospital. "At first she had some pain,” said Grace. “When she would hiccup or cough she would cry. Within a few weeks she was much better and we were ready to make our way back to Kenya.”
Baby Israel has a full life ahead of her. There are no restrictions on her activities. She will visit her primary cardiologist once a year. It's unlikely she will need surgery again, but if she does, the Vaidam team will be here for her.