Heart baby needs help

2010-06-29 00:00

THREE-MONTH-OLD Tayla Grace Geddes is awaiting open-heart surgery to fix the three holes in her heart and to reconstruct her missing septum, all the while fighting off pulmonary oedema — an accumulation of fluid on her lungs.

The surgery, which will take five hours by a team of specialist surgeons in Johannesburg, can only go ahead once Tayla has reached three-and-a-half kilograms.

“Originally the specialists in Johannesburg said they could only do the open-heart surgery once Tayla Grace is five kilograms, but as she has now developed pulmonary oedema, they have agreed to do the surgery when she weighs 3,5 kg,” said Tayla’s mother, Heather Geddes (36).

Geddes has moved into Medi-Clinic’s paediatric ward and stays by her daughter’s side most of the day, taking a break of only an hour or two daily.

Tayla’s father, Peter Hamberger, is also at her cot whenever he can make the time, doting on his daughter and taking time off work to give Geddes a well-deserved respite at weekends.

Although her daughter faces more medical uncertainty than most people do in a lifetime, Geddes described Tayla as a “content and beautiful little girl”.

“She hardly ever cries and she smiles all the time,” Geddes said.

“But she is also quite fiesty! The other day the nurses tried to take blood from her and she just refused. When she’s cross or bothered, her forehead goes bright red. And she has this gorgeous habit of lifting her eyebrows when I speak to her; it is so adorable,” she added.

Geddes said her pregnancy was a trying one, with doctors picking up a chromosome abnormality in Tayla before she was born.

“It was a stressful time, and my pregnancy wasn’t easy, but she is all worth it. She is my little miracle,” said Geddes smiling at her sleeping baby.

Tayla is fed a specialised formula through a nasal-gastric tube, which passes through her nose and into her stomach. She is also constantly on oxygen as her heart — devoid of separate chambers — allows oxy­genated and deoxygenated blood to mix.

Tayla’s doctor, Frank Bocking, explained her condition:

“Normally there are four chambers in the heart, divided by a septum. She doesn’t have a septum so, essentially, her heart is just one chamber,” he said.

Bocking confirmed Tayla needs open-heart surgery urgently, but voiced concerns over her weight.

“I think the main thing is the weight at this point; it is our limiting factor,” he said.

Mother and daughter have been living in the Medi-Clinic for a month now. Geddes was able to take her child home to Hayfields for two weeks and described their time at home together as “a real blessing”.

During their stays at the Medi-Clinic, nurses dote on Tayla, calling her “little popsicle” and “princess”.

“The staff at Medi-Clinic have been amazing to me; they are incredibly kind and have really supported me on my low days,” said Geddes.

“I cannot thank Dr Bocking and the paediatric staff at Medi-Clinic enough for their excellent care,” she added.

While Geddes is covered by medical aid, visits by the doctors and consultations exhausted her day-to-day funds even before she was admitted to hospital. There is also uncertainty as to whether medical aid will cover the fees of the specialised surgeons in Johannesburg.

Geddes will need to fund Tayla’s post-operation care.

“I am anxious about the money, but I’ll do anything for my daughter,” said Geddes.

“I know that one day soon Tayla Grace will be running around like a normal child.

“I just hope I am not too overprotective of this tiny bundle who brings us so much joy,” she said smiling.

To assist Heather Geddes, contact her on 084 469 8107 or e-mail heathergeddes74@gmail.com

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