One year old and going strong

2013-07-23 00:00

AT one year and a few days old, baby Joel Ford appears to be like any other toddler, walking while using a wall for support.

But just more than a year ago, Joel, who lives with his parents in Umhlanga, had undergone cutting edge, life-saving pinhole surgery while still in his mother’s womb.

Joel’s surgery was performed at Netcare Parklands Hospital in Durban, when his mother was 31 weeks’ pregnant.

He was delivered via Caesarean section at 38 weeks at Netcare Umhlanga Hospital in July 2012.

The in-utero pinhole surgery, which involved the insertion of a shunt to drain fluid building up in Joel’s chest, had never before been performed in KwaZulu-Natal, according to Dr Ismail Bhorat, who was part of the team involved in Joel’s treatment.

Bhorat, a foetal specialist, said a further four in-utero procedures have been successfully performed since Joel’s landmark operation. Before then, babies like Joel, who had a build-up of fluid between the layers of tissue that line their lungs, or hydrothorax as the condition is called, were considered untreatable and had a very poor prognosis.

For Joel’s mother Tarryn, her son’s progress since birth has been nothing short of amazing.

“He is a wonderful little boy and every day is amazing. He has achieved all his milestones and he is doing things a lot quicker than his two other siblings.”

Tarryn said she was still in contact with Bhorat and Carlos Hartmann, an obstetrician and gynaecologist, and paediatric surgeon Samad Shaik, of Parklands.

Hartmann, said Joel’s procedure was a great success. “Joel was already starting to have severe cardiac distress when the surgical team decided to go ahead with the new procedure. Now, a year later, he is a happy, healthy one-year-old. It was a most remarkable turnaround. Our hospital organised a birthday party for Joel and we are delighted to be able to share his first birthday with him and his family.”

Joel’s father Hayden, a well-known pilot who worked for Netcare911 and the SA Red Cross Air Mercy Ambulance, said the family considered it a great gift that Joel’s procedure not only saved his life, but was an important milestone for the team of doctors who performed the surgery.

“With the experience they gained, the team were able to successfully perform another similar shunt procedure just six days after Joel’s. We are incredibly humbled that Joel’s surgery paved the way for other babies to benefit.”

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