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Cutting edge heart procedure gives George girl (6) better shot at life

Ruveshni Lewis was born with one ventricle, which resulted in her heart not being able to pump oxygen-poor blood back to her lungs.

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CAPE TOWN - In a first for the African continent, a 6-year-old patient from George was the recipient of a cutting-edge non-surgical cardiac procedure at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.

Ruveshni Lewis was born with one ventricle, which resulted in her heart not being able to pump oxygen-poor blood back to the lungs.

In a previous procedure, cardiac surgeons were able to divert oxygen-poor blood directly to the lungs, without it having to pass through the missing ventricle.

Following this operation, however, a hole or “window” between the bypassing conduit and her heart remained wide open and caused her to become extremely cyanosed or “blue”.

Paediatric cardiologists at the hospital performed only the third procedure in the world, to insert a flow regulator into the window to reduce its size and improve the circulation.

Ruveshni Lewis’s heart was unable to pump oxygen-poor blood to the lungs for oxygenation.

After her last major surgery, surgeons bypassed the right side of her heart with a tube or conduit.

They then had to make a window or fenestration between the tube and heart to save her life, but this presented another challenge as too much oxygen-poor blood mixed with oxygenated blood inside her heart.

Paediatric cardiologist Professor Rik De Decker explained that the cardiac cath lab team last week implanted a device between the heart chambers to reduce the window size from 10mm to 4mm.

"This device is a new device, it’s not even on the market yet, it's just been developed and has been tested but it has a hole inside, like a blow-off hole, to allow some blood to go through, but not a big hole, so if we could then reduce the size of that hole from 10mm down to 4mm and that's simply by pushing the catheter up the vein, going through the hole and deploying the device inside the hole."

Ruveshni's mother, Justine Lewis, explained that her daughter was now in much better shape than before the intervention by the hospital's medical experts.

"Mentally and physically she's a playful child, she wasn't like that, she couldn't play long, she couldn't walk far distances, she would always complain about getting tired too easily but that all changed."

Lewis said it warmed her heart seeing her child enjoying a much better quality of life now.

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