A MUM has told how her little girl was diagnosed with a life-threatening congenital heart defect after breathing fast and not feeding properly when she was a baby.
Maya Fitzgerald Kelly, two, was rushed to hospital when she became unwell which led to the shock diagnosis.
The valve between the left heart chambers doesn’t close fully, allowing the blood to leak backwards.
Her mum Sinead Fitzgerald said: “To watch your beautiful baby fighting for their life and taking it hour by hour is something no parent should ever have to experience.
"And helplessly witnessing real-life angels work around the clock to save your child – a child so fragile and precious, that should have her whole life ahead of her.”
When Maya was three months old, her parents noticed changes to her breathing and feeding problems.
Sinead said: “Maya’s condition deteriorated, and we brought her to CHI Crumlin A&E and, while in the waiting room, she went into cardiac shock.
“After an echocardiogram showed abnormalities, Maya was quickly admitted to ICU where she was sedated to give her heart a break.”
Medics decided she needed open-heart surgery to reduce the leak between the chambers.
Sinead said: “Maya fought so hard and moved out of ICU to the ward to recover further before her surgery.
“Even at three months’ old, she was so determined and let nothing get in her way.”
Maya was very sick and taking medication eight times a day.
LIFE SAVING SURGERY
At four months, Maya had her open-heart surgery to repair her mitral valve.
But doctors discovered the structure of the valve to be very poor.
Sinead said: “Professor Mark Redmond was able to repair her valve, however, Maya will require ongoing open-heart surgery throughout her life to have new prosthetic valves fitted as these won’t grow with Maya’s heart.
“Unfortunately, there is no once-off fix for Maya’s condition.”
Since surgery, Maya has gone from “strength to strength”.
Sinead said: “Maya will have a tough road ahead in life but, as we say, congenital heart disease picked the wrong little girl.”
Global Congenital Heart Disease Awareness Month
Maya’s parents have teamed up with the Irish charity Heart Children to raise awareness.
Sinead said: "We were delighted to be included in its 2023 calendar to raise money for the Children’s Heart Centre in CHI Crumlin because of the care and support they had shown to us and Maya."
She added: “Maya has not let her condition define her and is like any other two-year-old little girl, full of laughter, joy, and mischief.
“She is the boss of the house and, if asked about her zip line scar, she will always point to it and tell you how pretty it is.”
Congenital heart disease (CHD) is the most common birth defect worldwide and between 500-600 babies are born with the condition here in Ireland each year.
For more information about the charity Heart Children and its services, visit www.heartchildren.ie where copies of the CHI calendar can be purchased or to make a donation.