FEEL GOOD | 13-year-old Cape Town transplant patient thanks doctors from the bottom of her new heart

accreditation
0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Parusia Muhigirwa, 13, is recovering well after heart transplant surgery carried out at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.
Parusia Muhigirwa, 13, is recovering well after heart transplant surgery carried out at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.
  • The Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital has carried out its first heart transplant surgery in 13 years.
  • Teenager Parusia Muhigirwa received a new heart in February.
  • The 13-year-old is recovering well after the surgery, the hospital has said.

A 13-year-old girl has undergone a successful heart transplant at the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital in Cape Town - a journey that has inspired her to becoming a doctor one day.

The life-changing surgery is the first one to be carried out at the hospital in 13 years, with Parusia Muhigirwa receiving a new heart in February. Muhigirwa was diagnosed with a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy, in which the heart muscle becomes weak, floppy and enlarged or dilated.

While dilated cardiomyopathy is most commonly caused by a viral infection attacking the heart muscle, the cause is not always known, explained Professor Liesl Zühlke, a paediatric cardiologist at the hospital.

Children can develop cardiomyopathy - failure of the heart's muscle - for various reasons, said Zühlke.

READ | SA’s first Covid-19 lung transplant patient finally leaves hospital, with her baby

"Some children may be born with abnormal heart structures, congenital heart disease, and although we are able to operate on many of these lesions, some are no longer able to be repaired or develop complications and when there is additional muscle pump failure, sometimes the only option is also to offer a heart transplant," she said.

Patients like Muhigirwa have a long road to travel before getting a transplant.

"We spend a long time preparing children with these conditions for a heart transplant and it is a careful and considered joint decision between family, child and team," said Zühlke.

Professor Mignon McCulloch, who heads up the paediatric Transplantation Service at the hospital, said that transplant patients still faced challenges after the surgery.

"Immunosuppression is a challenge, especially with children and in the time of Covid-19. It's a fine line that we need to balance to ensure that we give the patient the best chances," McCulloch said.

The follow-up process entails regular, monthly, check-ups including echo-cardiograms, blood tests, an array of assessments and careful monitoring of the immunosuppression.

According to a hospital statement, Muhigirwa has been in recovery and is doing well, and the experience had motivated her to become a doctor when she grows up.

"Today I have a new heart and I'm strong again... I'm very happy," she said.

"Thank you, doctors. You have been such a big help in my life since I came [to Red Cross] four years ago, waiting for a heart. You've always been there for me, supporting me. I have nothing to give you - no gold, no money - but a big 'thank you'."

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Are you going to keep wearing a mask following the announcement that it is no longer required under law?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
No ways, I'm done
42% - 3963 votes
Yes, I still want to be cautious
21% - 2020 votes
Only certain circumstances
37% - 3556 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
15.86
+0.1%
Rand - Pound
19.46
-0.0%
Rand - Euro
16.78
+0.0%
Rand - Aus dollar
10.98
-0.0%
Rand - Yen
0.12
-0.1%
Gold
1,825.45
+0.2%
Silver
21.15
-0.1%
Palladium
1,890.50
+0.9%
Platinum
910.00
-0.2%
Brent Crude
115.09
+1.7%
Top 40
61,525
0.0%
All Share
67,827
0.0%
Resource 10
65,488
0.0%
Industrial 25
80,203
0.0%
Financial 15
15,428
0.0%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE