Back in the day, it was impossible for an expecting mother to know if there was something physically wrong with her baby prior to his or her birth. Nowadays, thanks to modern day medical technological advancements, mothers know what to expect and go through necessary procedures in order to assure their baby is going to have the best life possible.
Still, despite the reformation, sometimes giving birth to a baby that is ill is inevitable, since scans and ultrasounds do not pick up everything. Even the best and more qualified doctors out there with enough experience to last an entire lifetime cannot anticipate what is yet to come, despite their best intentions.
Valerie Christy gave birth to her third child, Ryleigh, hoping and thinking that everything was alright. Carrying her offspring in her belly for nine whole months, Valerie was already imagining her newborn developing into a little human with ten fingers and toes. She thought of the first steps she would take and the first words she would speak – but then, the worst thing she could have imagined happened.
After giving birth, Valerie felt something was wrong. Although her doctors noticed no red flags, her maternal instinct suggested otherwise. “From the moment she was born, I knew that things weren’t right, but the doctors had no idea what was wrong with her,” said Valerie to the Daily Mirror. Only three short days went by and it turned out Valerie was right – although she would have much preferred not to have been.
“She was breathing so fast, her chest was going up and down, and she was taken into intensive care in the early hours of one morning.”
But rushing her little baby off to the ICU was not enough. In fact, baby Ryleigh had to be transferred to another hospital, since more advanced tests needed to be taken. After this was done, Valerie and her husband were shocked to find out that Ryleigh had a septal defect and several atrial septal defects, all of which she was born with. To simplify matters, Ryleigh was born with a heart that had many holes in it, making the muscle “Swiss cheese-like.”
This condition makes breathing especially hard since the holes interfere with the process of replenishing oxygen-rich blood to the lungs. Not only that, but this condition could also lead to heart failure or a stroke. Because of this, there was little time to act. Valerie was notified that tiny Ryleigh had to have an operation if she wanted her daughter to lead a healthy, happy life. “So I had to hope and pray that she was strong enough to survive,” she said.
At only 11-weeks-old, Ryleigh was taken into surgery, and a risky one at that. The holes in her heart had to be closed off somehow, but it was the material used to seal the voids that left her parents in shock: doctors used Gore-Tex on her heart, which is also known as the material used to make raincoats.
“[Gore-Tex] is used in heart operations because it’s very elastic and has a honeycomb structure to it that allows the patient’s own cells to grow in and around it,” explained Mirror.
Thanks to this unlikely material and the doctor’s willing to experiment to save Ryleigh’s little life, they managed to do just that.