‘If they didn’t do the surgery she would have died’
Maya Fitzgerald Kelly Photo Credit KB

‘If they didn’t do the surgery she would have died’

A NINE-month-old girl with a congenital heart defect who underwent open heart surgery at six months old has been chosen to appear on the cover of Heart Children Ireland’s 2022 calendar.

Little Maya Fitzgerald Kelly from Tallaght was born with a heart defect in which her mitral valve did not form fully, which is a valve that lets blood flow from one chamber of the heart.

“When Maya was born, they said she was fine and everything was normal, and I came home from the hospital with a healthy baby,” Maya’s mam Sinead Fitzgerald told The Echo.

“When she was around four months old, she wasn’t feeding right and she was out of breath.  On a Friday, I rang the GP and he said he couldn’t see me because he was so busy with the Covid-19 vaccine, and we made an appointment for the following Monday.”

As the day progressed, Maya’s condition deteriorated, and Sinead brought her to Crumlin Children’s Hospital A&E where she went into cardiac shock. After an echocardiogram showed abnormalities, Maya was taken to ICU where she was sedated to give her heart a break.

“All of the blood had flowed up into her atrium and the atrium was so enlarged that all of the fluid was building up on her lungs and her body couldn’t cope anymore,” said Sinead.

“The consultants and doctors decided that she needed open heart surgery to stop the leak because her valve wasn’t developed and doesn’t close properly. If they didn’t do the surgery she would have died.”

At aged six months, Maya had open heart surgery to repair her mitral valve which was successful. Maya will require ongoing surgery to fit prosthetic valves until she is around sixteen with an adult sized heart.

“She is doing really well since. With Maya’s condition she will need ongoing heart surgery, it is not like a once off fix,” explained Sinead.

“The next surgery she needs is a replacement valve, which is a prosthetic valve being put into her and because prosthetic valves don’t grow with children, she will keep needing to get it replaced.”

Following Maya’s condition, Sinead decided to reach out to charity Heart Children Ireland for support and more information. Sinead said that she wanted to share Maya’s story with the organisation and for the calendar to raise money for the Children’s Heart Centre at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, because of the care and support they had shown her and Maya.

Heart Children Ireland are a nationwide organisation founded in 1990 which depend on their own fundraising and donations. So far, they have raised over €2.5 million for Crumlin Hospital and aim to raise awareness through information days and conferences about congenital heart defects.

“The calendar is full of kids with different congenital heart defects, there are millions of different types and I wanted to raise more awareness,” added Sinead.

Sinead thanked all of the doctors and nurses in the CHC ward in Crumlin, Maya’s consultant Dr Orla Franklin and Dr Sophie Duignan for their support and amazing care as well as Professor Mark Redmond, who performed Maya’s surgery.

For more information about Heart Children Ireland and their services you can visit https://heartchildren.ie/ where copies of the CHI 2022 calendar will be available to buy soon.

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