Latest Heart Surgery Helps Will Take Life in His Stride

The Birmingham Post (England), August 20, 2002 | Go to article overview

Latest Heart Surgery Helps Will Take Life in His Stride


Byline: Jenny Hudson Health Correspondent

Will Goodenough plays just like any other boisterous eight-year-old and is determined to live life to the full.

But only a decade ago, there was no hope for babies who, like Will, were born without a properly developed left chamber of the heart.

It is not known what causes the defect, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, which means babies have no oxygenated blood supply. Left untreated, most sufferers would die.

Fortunately, Will was one of the first children in the UK to undergo highly complex surgery, pioneered at Birmingham Children's Hospital, which involves replumbing the whole circulation system in three stages of open heart surgery.

The left chamber of the heart plays a vital pumping function and babies born with HLHS also have a poorly formed aorta - the main artery needed to carry blood from the heart to the entire body. The first operation has to take place almost immediately - Will was just three days old - in order to save the baby.

Cardiac surgeon Bill Brawn enlarged the aorta and reconnected it to the heart through the pulmonary artery - the vessel which carries blood to the lungs.

At this stage, the heart is little bigger than a clenched fist and each vessel measures less that two millimetres, making the surgery extremely intricate.

Will had to have a second operation at the age of six months, followed by further surgery when he was four. The surgery has to be carried out in three steps because it would be too risky to try such a major change in a single operation.

Sixty-five per cent of youngsters now survive all three stages of surgery at the Children's Hospital. Will's parents David and Clare Goodenough, from Flyford Flavell in Worcestershire, thought everything was fine when Will was born.

But a day after his birth, a doctor feared he might have a heart murmur and he was rushed to Birmingham Children's Hospital for tests.

They then discovered that Will had HLHS. 'There were no guarantees about the outcomes of surgery at any stage,' said Mr Goodenough.

'But there was no choice, as far as we were concerned. We felt we had to give Will that chance.'

The first operation was a success but the family had to cope with knowing that two more sessions of open heart surgery lay ahead. …

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