Beating the odds
Becks Macmillan and her fiance John Walters were excited when they went for the 20-week scan of their first child. Then came the bad news.
"I just wanted to know if it was a girl or a boy," Miss Macmillan says.
"The sonographer said: ‘It's a girl but there's something really wrong with her heart'."
They were told their baby girl would probably not survive the pregnancy, let alone the birth.
But Molly Walters continues to beat the odds nearly three years later.
She was born with pulmonary atresia and Ebstein's anomaly of the tricuspid valve, meaning one half of her heart couldn't function.
Newborn Molly was too fragile for her mother to hold for the first few days. She had one procedure after another and had her third open heart surgery just before her second birthday.
That was the scariest time of all. It was June 2011 and Molly's baby brother Jack had just arrived.
"We knew Molly would be needing surgery soon. The day he was born, Molly was not 100 per cent," her mother says.
The oxygen levels in Molly's blood were very low and the next day she was back in hospital. She had surgery when Jack was six weeks old.
"Apparently having a bypass scrambles your brain a bit. So when she came out of the anaesthetic she was just hysterical. They had to intubate her again and let her body rest."
Molly was soon able to breathe on her own again but that wasn't the end of it. The tiny girl had a cardiac arrest in her mother's arms.
"The doctors were amazingly quick . . . thanks to them, Molly is still here."
She was put into a medicated coma for a week to allow her body to recover.
Baby Jack, who was born with a healthy heart, had a case of bronchiolitis at the same time as Molly was in hospital.
"Jack couldn't be near Molly, so John and I had to tag-team, one of us with him and one with her. I'd had a caesarean . . . so we joked that everyone had an i/v line apart from John."
The Glendowie family has been supported by @Heart since the beginning when Molly's deformed heart was revealed on the 20-week scan.
The charity helps people all over New Zealand with heart conditions.
"There is one person in particular who has been with us right from the start. She knows our history and everything we've been through. It is so good to see a familiar face when you're in the hospital - someone who understands.
"Sometimes things happen so quickly and before you know it you're in hospital, with no time to prepare."
The charity also helps with the practical side of things and can provide everything from supermarket vouchers to phone top-ups and meals for families struggling to cope with caring for a heart patient.
Things now look good for Molly. Her surgery went well and a week before her second birthday she learned to walk.
"That was a huge milestone. She's a bit delayed in terms of her motor skills and her language. She's such a happy little girl these days. She used to just sit quietly and look at everything. There was a time she couldn't be around other children."
Molly has just started kindergarten and will turn three at the end of September. She will always need to be monitored and will require more surgery. But the toddler has come a long way.
"It's amazing what the surgeons can do. When you think how tiny her valves must be . . . It's hard to put into words how thankful we are."
August is @Heart's awareness month. Go to heartnz.org.nz for information on the charity's work.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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