Surgeons at Health City Cayman Islands have made history in the Caribbean after performing lifesaving surgery on a child from Nicaragua who was born with his heart outside of his chest cavity.
Health City’s Chief Cardiac Surgeon Dr. Binoy Chattuparambil, said the child, Jeremias, had Pentalogy of Cantrell, an extremely rare and life-threatening congenital disorder found in 5.5-7.9 per million live births.
With only 200 reported worldwide, he confirmed that such cases are unheard of by many doctors. “I have seen (this) only once before, when I was in India and I assisted (on) one case,” he said.
Restoring 10-month-old Jeremias’ heart to its rightful position in his chest cavity, however, was the first time Dr. Chattuparambil led a surgical team for the complex procedure, though he predicted it would be a success.
“This child’s heart was just beneath the skin,” Dr. Chattuparambil explained. “Any trauma…actually even if you press hard, that can kill the baby. So, this is a very rare anomaly.”
The surgical challenges for the six-hour operation were numerous. “We removed the outpouching of the heart and repositioned the heart into the normal location with space constraints and reconstruction of the defects of the pericardium, diaphragm, chest and abdominal wall,” he explained.
The procedure involved many specialists, including plastic surgeon Dr. Javier Mendoza, a paediatric cardiologist, anaesthesiologists, intensive care team, physiotherapists and a radiologist, all who carefully charted a plan for Jeremias’ surgery and post-operative management.
Dr. Chandy Abraham, Director of Medical Services and CEO of Health City Cayman Islands, underscored the importance of having multiple medical specialists on staff. “I think one of the important things for an institution like Health City is that we have specialists who combine together to do complex work…so this patient was treated successfully by both the plastic surgeon and the cardiac surgeon and had a successful outcome.”
Dr. Chattuparambil’s initial prediction was accurate: The surgery and recovery were a textbook success. “His mother sent me a video last week of the child at home playing – he’s like any other normal child.” Post-operative echocardiograms have shown everything to be fine. “The child will have a normal life now.”
Jeremias’ mother, Marlen Adelina Lopez, had been anxious since her son was born, scared to let him play or even crawl. She said: “I was very scared of him getting hurt. Now, I see everything very different. Now, he is a normal child…he will be able to play, to walk, to crawl, to run like any other child.”
Jeremias’ parents had special words of thanks to Health City and the charities involved in saving their son’s life, including Nicaragua’s Bless Back Worldwide and Have a Heart Cayman Islands.
“It’s very hard to have a child in this condition, especially when you don’t have the means to pay for a surgery of this category. So, it’s very important to support these kind of foundations so other kids can get help,” Ms Lopez said. “I cannot express my gratefulness.”
“Everyone here has been very special and very attentive,” said Jeremias’ father, Addylson Alberto Ruiz. “I don’t know what I would do if he wasn’t able to get the services he received at this facility.”
Lisa Walker, Director of Bless Back Worldwide, who referred the child to Health City Cayman Islands, was effusive in her praise of the facility and its willingness to accept patients from the region. “From our first interaction with Health City, we were amazed at the kindness and professionalism of every staff member we interacted with,” she said. “We are extremely grateful that your organisation extends hope and health to those who do not have access to quality care in their home countries.”
She further declared Health City as “a model for excellence in healthcare, (deserving of) a five-star rating.”