Complex heart surgery at 3 months old

Emma Louise O’Donkor

Lauraine O’Donkor’s daughter Emma was born with a congenital heart defect discovered when she was about a week old.

Her mum Lauraine recalls: “I had to go back into hospital for an operation soon after I had her. Emma was then left with the nurses on the ward as I went into theatre. The nurse who looked after her noticed that her breathing was laboured and she was turning blue.”

While Lauraine recovered from her surgery, Emma was put in an incubator before being referred to Harefield hospital for tests. An echocardiogram revealed she had three holes in her heart.

Before the operation Emma, who is now 20, was very ill, says Lauraine. “Feeding was difficult; she turned blue anytime she cried. She also retained a lot of fluids, which made her eyes puffy. The op could not be done immediately because Emma was under weight. She had to be fed highly nutritious food to put weight on her first.”

Emma was operated on when she was three months old. Lauraine recalls being told that Magdi Yacoub returned from a holiday to perform the operation. “Emma was a tiny baby and the complexity of her condition meant that an expert was needed to perform the complicated surgery,” she says.

“The Prof was on holidays when we were admitted. But true to his dedication and commitment to his profession, he communicated with the staff on duty, which filled him in on how the patients on the ward were doing.

We both would like to let him know how much we appreciate him for saving Emma’s life

According to the then registrar, they told him how Emma’s health was quickly deteriorating and he offered to come back in to do the op. It’s an act for which I will perpetually be grateful.”

Lauraine never met Sir Magdi either before or after the operation, as he went back to continue with his holiday. Meanwhile, Emma recovered well and was removed from a ventilator after six days.

“Her long-term aftercare was done in conjunction with my local hospital QEII in Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire, with annual, biannual and most recently five yearly visits to Harefield,” says Lauraine.

Both she and her daughter say they’d love the opportunity to thank the man they never met but who has had such a major impact on their lives. “We both would like to let him know how much we appreciate him for saving Emma’s life because he was selfless and put other peoples’ needs first before himself.

“I would also like him to know that his sacrifice paid off and that Emma is now training to be a teacher; all because he gave her a fighting chance.”

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