Girl gets cutting-edge op

Ruveshni Lewis, 6, with her mother, Justine, at the hospital recovering after the operation.

Six-year-old Ruveshni Lewis has had cutting-edge heart op at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital – it’s the first time it’s been done in Africa and only the third time globally.

Ruveshni was born with one heart ventricle, so her heart could not pump oxygen-poor blood, known as “blue blood”, back to her lungs.

Ruveshni had two previous operations at the hospital, where cardiac surgeons diverted blue blood through a channel directly to the lungs, without it having to pass through the missing ventricle.

Hospital spokesperson Dwayne Evans said that after the second operation a complication required that she undergo an emergency operation.

“During that operation a ‘window’ that was made between the channel and her heart was too large, allowing too much blue blood back into her heart. This resulted in her having very low oxygen saturations,” he said.

Paediatric cardiologist Professor Rik de Decker, explained that the hospital’s catheterisation laboratory team implanted a device, an atrial flow restrictor (AFR), at the end of July.

“The AFR device is implanted between one of the heart chambers and the channel to reduce the window’s size from 10mm to 4mm, the more normal size,” he said.

The AFR was recently developed in Sweden and is not even on the market yet.

“It has a hole inside, like a blow-off hole to allow some blood to go through. After undergoing six previous procedures, the implantation of the AFR effectively means that Ruveshni won’t need to undergo difficult repeat surgery for this problem, which is wonderful news,” Professor de Decker said.

Mr Evans said Ruveshni was recovering well after the procedure.

Ruveshni’s mother, Justine Lewis, is delighted with her recovery.

“Mentally and physically she’s a playful child, she wasn’t like that, she couldn’t play long, she couldn’t walk long distances, she would always complain about getting tired too easily, but that has all changed,” she said.