Infant from Kiribati conquers heart disease in Taiwan

2018/07/09 20:11:03 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Photo courtesy of Mackay Memorial Hospital

Photo courtesy of Mackay Memorial Hospital

Taipei, July 9 (CNA) The survival of a five-month-old baby boy from Kiribati named Nawere has been called a "miracle" by Mackay Memorial Hospital in Taipei after he made it through several crises while being treated for an ailment caused by a congenital heart defect.

The infant patient was diagnosed as being born with the transposition of great arteries (TGA) by a Mackay medical mission that was in Kiribati in March when Nawere was under two months old and so ill that he was on the verge of death.

The medical group decided Nawere had to be taken to Taiwan as soon as possible for treatment if he hoped to stay alive, recalled Hsu Yung-wei (徐永偉), head of the International Medical Service Center of Mackay Hospital, on Monday.

"Nawere is a little fighter," Hsu said, describing his ability to make it through the three-day trip from Kiribati to Taiwan consisting of a ride on a speed boat and two flights.

Nawere's health condition was not bad on the plane but his heartbeat slowed down when he was loaded onto an ambulance after arriving in Taiwan, and he underwent cardiac catheterization as soon as he arrived at the hospital, Hsu said.

Hsu said Nawere's body was too fragile to take on the procedure, forcing his medical team to perform emergency treatment several times and to eventually put him on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine to keep him alive.

The medical team at one point worried Nawere might never be able to become independent of the machine and feared his brain may have been damaged by the treatment.

None of those worries materialized, however, and Hsu praised Nawere's will to live as "admirable."

Nawere has since been taken off the ECMO machine and is now recovering, Hsu said, and he expected the young patient to be able to check out of the hospital in two weeks.

Transposition of the great arteries is a congenital (present at birth) heart defect, according to a definition on the official website of Stanford Children's Health.

Due to abnormal development of the fetal heart during the first eight weeks of pregnancy, the large vessels that carry blood from the heart to the lungs and to the body are improperly connected. Essentially, the connections in the heart are "swapped."

Mackay Memorial Hospital has been sending medical teams to Kiribati regularly for 11 years. So far it has treated 300 patients transferred from the island-nation, one of 18 countries that has diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Hsu said nearly half of the patients from Kiribati sent to Taiwan suffered from heart disease and had to be treated surgically or with other invasive therapies.

(By Chen Wei-ting and Elizabeth Hsu)
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