Subject: SMH: Her life in their hands … at last

Sydney Morning Herald

Her life in their hands … at last

By Ruth Pollard Health Reporter April 28, 2006

HER tiny body illuminated by the harsh glare of the operating theatre lights, baby Maria lies connected to a twisted vine of tubes and intravenous lines, her chest rising and falling to the beep of the monitors.

The 2.6 kilogram bundle is on a huge table, a pink, blue and yellow blanket draped over her legs, followed by a layer of army green surgical sheet; she is dwarfed by the theatre's modern machinery and is, according to her mother, in the hands of God and the doctors working to save her life.

With one last kiss on her two-month-old daughter's temple, Lorencia Soares leaves Maria to members of the cardio-thoracic surgical team who over the next five hours repair the hole in her heart and grant her a new lease of life.

At 4pm yesterday doctors declared the operation a success while Maria lay in the intensive care unit at Sydney Children's Hospital, recovering with her mother by her side.

The tiny East Timorese girl had been facing a death sentence when the Herald highlighted her plight last month. Her condition - a ventricular septal defect - had been identified but her country did not have the resources or specialist to fix it. Moved by her story, doctors from the Sydney Children's Hospital volunteered to perform the operation and she was flown to Sydney two weeks ago.

Maria's surgeon, Peter Grant, said the next two days would be critical to her recovery and warned her condition remained serious. Anaesthetist Alan Rubinstein said her low body weight and fragile health meant the operation was both delicate and challenging.

"It is major surgery … for open-heart surgery she is close to one of the smallest we have done," he said. "She can get unstable very quickly … with a small child it can be very challenging."

Body heat and fluid levels become paramount when babies as small as Maria undergo surgery - to regulate her temperature, a device blew warm air under her, and she was covered in a plastic sheet to trap the warmth.

Yesterday morning, just minutes before Maria was taken into theatre, Mrs Soares broke down in tears - the long journey from East Timor to the reality of open-heart surgery proving, momentarily, too much to bear.

Flanked by her translator, and Virginia Dawson, a nurse from the Dili clinic that first diagnosed Maria's condition, Mrs Soares said, wiping the tears from her eyes: "I just want to leave it in God's hands and in the hands of the doctors."

Lloyd Roever, from the Rotary-funded ROMAC - Reaching Overseas with Medical Aid for Children - has supported Mrs Soares during her time in Sydney.

Maria is expected to stay in hospital for at least a week, and then with her mother will spend a fortnight at Mr Roever's house, preparing for the journey home.

Back to April menu
March menu     
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu