Baby feet
Picture for illustrative purposes Image Credit: Stock image

Highlights

  • A 15-day-old baby in a hospital in Mangaluru, needed an urgent heart valve surgery.
  • Doctors advised the parents to consider moving the child to a hospital in Kochi.
  • On Tuesday, social media users in Kerala shared information to clear traffic as the ambulance passed on the designated route.
  • The surgery was successfully completed on Friday and the child is stable now, but under observation for 48 hours.

Dubai: It was a race against time on Tuesday, as Kerala created "green corridor" to save a 15-day-old baby who needed an urgent heart valve surgery. The baby who had a complex congenital heart defect was taken in an ambulance from the Indian city of Mangaluru to Kochi in Kerala, in just 5-and-a-half hours.

According to Indian media reports: "The baby born at a hospital in northern Kasaragod district, developed respiratory distress and had to be admitted to a private hospital in Mangaluru. Further, the baby also developed pneumonia with liver and kidney dysfunction. It was then that the parents decided to make a risky journey all the way to Thiruvananthapuram since it has affordable health care facilities."

A roadtrip was deemed necessary after doctors refused to give permission for the child to be airlifted citing pressure variations, which could be harmful to the baby.

Initially, the child's relatives had decided to take him to the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences & Technology in Thiruvananthapuram covering over 600 km in 12 hours. When the NGO ‘Child Protect Team’ who were  coordinating the transfer of the child, were struggling to cut short the time that will be taken to transfer the child,  Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja intervened and advised the relatives to take the child to Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS) in Kochi, instead.

The health minister also offered free treatment for the baby under the 'Hrudyam (heart) project' of the Kerala state government. The minister also spoke to doctors at Amrita Hospital and convinced the relatives that a long journey to Thiruvananthapuram will be risky for the child who was already in a serious condition.

How social media was used

As the ambulance made way, many people including Kerala's Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan took to social media channels to ensure that vehicles would make way for the ambulance without creating any delay on the designated route. He wrote in Malayalam: "Every second is precious. I appeal to everyone to help baby reach destination on time."

Many shared the ambulance's number plate to create awareness of the inter-state mission.

The ambulance’s journey was webcast live on Facebook so that awareness about the ambulance could be spread and people could make way for it. According to Indian newspaper the Hindustan Times: "As information about the child’s condition spread, many good Samaritans hit the street to help clear the way for the ambulance." An NGO ‘Child Protect Team’ coordinated the transfer of the child.

Multiple heart defects

The toddler was taken to the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences in Kochi. His condition was said to be critical and he was kept under strict observation

The hospital told Gulf News that the baby's heart had the following defects specifically: "First, Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD): This is a hole between the pumping chambers of the heart (ventricles); Second, coarctation of the aorta: This is a narrowing of the main vessel supplying the body. In this baby's case the narrowing is severe and extensive. And third, bicuspid aortic valve and aortic valve stenosis: The aortic valve of this baby is abnormal and narrow."

"Because of the above mentioned heart defects the child has been in a compromised state since birth. This has resulted in other organs being affected. Notably, the child has had two episodes of seizures and transient renal failure before being transported. He has been on mechanical ventilator support for around 12 days. Other than the congenital heart defect, we have identified birth defects that can impact the child’s long term outcome. The EEG (electroencephalogram) demonstrates subtle abnormalities."

The child remained in the Amrita ICU for 24 hrs and before he was stabilised enough for surgery. The hospital added: "The surgery is a very high risk procedure because of the extreme complexity."

The surgery

The hospital told Gulf News that the surgery took place on Friday: "The baby underwent VSD closure, aortic valve-plasty and extended arch repair surgery."

Heart surgery
Picture for illustrative purposes Image Credit: Getty

"The surgery began approximately around 9am and ended at around 4pm. Repair of the heart defects was done under cardio-pulmonary bypass. The hole in the heart was closed and the narrowing of the heart valve was corrected and an extensive repair of the aorta was undertaken. The baby is currently stable. However, doctors felt the next 48 hours are crucial as this is the period of time the baby requires to recover from the effects of cardio-pulmonary bypass. During this time period, the child will be kept in the ICU for monitoring of his condition."