A little girl from Kuwait came to London for surgery to mend a complex and rare congenital heart defect, where her heart chambers and blood vessels supplying the heart were abnormally positioned.
Raghad is an 18-month-old toddler. She was born with a condition called congenitally corrected transposition of the great arteries– or ccTGA for short – and it means that the arteries and the ventricles are totally inverted.
Raghad’s father, Wael, recounts the day when he first found out about his daughter’s condition:
"When Raghad was born, the doctors knew there was something very wrong. She had an accelerated heartbeat and she was hyperventilating. When we tried feeding her, she was unable to drink any milk. She became very weak and was always tired. She was so ill that I honestly thought she was going to die."
"Raghad was admitted to intensive care and the doctors told us that she would need to have an operation to correct the position of the arteries and the ventricles."
A few days after birth, Raghad had a procedure which literally saved her life. A few months later, she had another operation to prevent too much blood from flowing to her lungs – a common consequence of having this type of heart defect. This second operation allowed her to grow.
She then needed to have a second operation called a 'double switch' which involves 'switching' the arteries and the great vessels that are abnormally inverted. There were no hospitals that performed this procedure locally and in fact, only a few centres around the world perform this complex operation.
Since Wael works for the military in Kuwait, and due to a lack of local expertise, the Kuwaiti government was able to fund Raghad’s operation overseas. His doctors recommended Royal Brompton Hospital in London, as it has an international reputation for treating rare and complex forms of congenital heart disease and it has one of the largest units for treating this disease in Europe.
Expert care in London
Professor Francois Lacour-Gayet, the paediatric consultant in charge of Raghad’s case comments: "Raghad came to us with a very complex heart condition. Only a handful of centres perform this type of procedure and Royal Brompton specialises in complex cases cardiac cases."
"During the operation, Raghad was put on a ‘heart-lung machine’ which takes over the function of the heart and the lungs. This allowed us to operate on the heart whilst the heart-lung machine pumps blood around the body. Once the heart was stopped, we worked to reconstruct a normal anatomy. The operation was highly complex and took over 15 hours."
Wael said: "Since the operation, Raghad has recovered very well and has become a completely different child – her personality is really starting to shine through. No longer held back by her heart condition, she is now able to enjoy playing again and is able to eat and drink normally."
"The care we received at Royal Brompton has been outstanding – from the consultants and surgeons to the staff on the paediatric ward."
"The hospital has everything you need to be comfortable –particularly for those coming from overseas. There is a prayer room and Arabic interpreters, and the ward provides halal meals and Arabic newspapers."
"We feel as if a burden has been lifted and are very grateful to our surgeon and the staff. We finally have peace of mind that Raghad will go on to live a full, happy life."
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