'The best birthday present': Family celebrates little Atang's first birthday after successful heart repair

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Lifesaving procedure for baby girl who 'knows what she wants'. Photo: Supplied/Netcare
Lifesaving procedure for baby girl who 'knows what she wants'. Photo: Supplied/Netcare

Baby Atang Baloyi's journey to health has been a long road. Two weeks ago she had to undergo a specialised procedure to correct a life-threatening heart defect while celebrating her first birthday. Read her story below.

"When we learned that our baby girl had a hole in her heart, I think I had a nervous breakdown. The heart is not something you can live without, like an arm or a leg. The heart is so vulnerable and central to life," says Tintswalo Baloyi, mother of baby Atang.

Atang celebrated her first birthday this month, just two weeks after undergoing a specialised procedure to correct the life-threatening heart defect with which she was born.

"Since the heart operation, Atang is recovering very well. She's enjoying lots of attention from her grandmother and us, and we were so happy to celebrate her first birthday. She is still too young to talk, but even at such a young age, our little girl knows what she wants, and she has no difficulty making it very clear to us," laughs the relieved mother.

"Knowing our baby's heart has been repaired is the best birthday present we could have wished for," adds Atang's father, Ernest Matshoga.

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Atang Baloyi's first birthday celebration. Photo: Supplied/Netcare.

Teaming up for Atang

Atang, who turned one on 14 April, is the most recent beneficiary of the Heart to Heart Campaign, a corporate social investment match funding initiative of Medipost Holdings and the Netcare Foundation to help children who need urgent life-saving heart operations.

The Maboneng Foundation, a non-profit organisation, coordinates the sponsorship of surgeries for South African children with congenital heart defects.

The renowned Maboneng Heart and Lung Institute specialists provided their time and expertise pro bono for the baby girl's heart operation at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital in Johannesburg.

"The team at Steve Biko Academic Hospital brought Atang's situation to our attention, as the ventricular septal defect [VSD], or hole in the wall of her heart between the two chambers, was likely to become debilitating, potentially life-threatening if it was not corrected soon," says cardiothoracic surgeon and co-founder of the Maboneng Heart Institute, Dr Erich Schürmann.

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A race against time

"As the surgery to correct the defect is highly resource-intensive, and there is sadly a great need for such procedures, there is an extensive waiting list. It is a race against time, however, because as the child grows, the heart defect causes damage to the arteries of the lungs.

"We were determined to find a way to help Atang to have the operation sooner with private sector support to cover the theatre and hospitalisation costs," he says.

Cardiothoracic surgeons Dr Martin Myburgh and Dr Hendrick Mamorare of the Maboneng Heart and Lung Institute, paediatric cardiologist Dr Janine Meares, anaesthetist Prof Nathi Mdladla and cardiac perfusionist Mr Thulas Dladla, who all practise at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital, performed the procedure to close the hole in Atang's tiny heart.

"It was very emotional for us parents waiting for our baby to come out of the theatre. We are truly grateful for the opportunity, and we appreciate what this operation means for our daughter's future," Ernest says.

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Pharmacist of the future?

When Atang's mother was asked what career she could imagine for her baby when she grew up, Tintswalo said she would not be surprised if their little girl became a pharmacist one day.

"She knows her medication so well, and she was so good when I gave her medicine for the heart condition that I think she might have a future as a pharmacist. Her personality already shows she is caring, so perhaps that would be a good match for her – time will tell."

"Whichever path Atang chooses, we are so pleased that this brave little girl has come through the operation so well and is ready to take on the future and the opportunities it will bring," adds Rentia Myburgh, group sales and marketing director for Medipost Holdings, comprising Medipost Pharmacy, MediLogistics, Kawari Wholesaler and Distributor, and the MediTraining Academy.

Must read: 'It felt like there was little hope': Baby boy undergoes surgery to fix the large hole in his little heart

"Our sincere thanks to the Netcare Foundation for matching our CSI donation, which has enabled twice as much to be achieved for children like Atang in need of life-saving procedures," she says.

"We wish Atang a happy first birthday. We are delighted that she now has the chance of living a full and healthy life," adds Mande Toubkin, general manager of emergency, trauma, transplant and CSI at Netcare and a trustee of the Netcare Foundation.

"God bless all the doctors and nurses who looked after our little girl – You are not just doing your jobs but making miracles. We are so grateful to Medipost, the Netcare Foundation and Maboneng Institute for making this possible. We can never forget what you have done for Atang," Tintswalo concluded.

For more information about the Maboneng Foundation, which coordinates sponsorship of the procedures, or to donate, please visit here.


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