A mum has revealed how her newborn daughter had to undergo life-saving heart surgery at just six days old – after a nurse spotted something strange at the 20-week scan.
Natalie Robinson, 32, from Brynamman, Wales, wasn’t initially concerned when a nurse struggled to take clear pictures of her unborn child’s pulmonary arteries.
But after a “very intensive” further scan on 8 February 2022, Natalie and partner Mike, 37, were taken to a private room and was told by a doctor that their baby had a “very severe” heart defect.
Aria was born on 10 June 2022, and was diagnosed with truncus arteriosus – a birth defect of the heart which occurs when the blood vessel coming out of the heart in a developing baby fails to separate completely.
If left untreated, the condition can be fatal.
Just six days after her birth, the tot had to undergo life-saving heart surgery.
“It was gut wrenching – we left crying as there was a possibility it would be the last time we would see her,” Natalie, a stay-at-home mum, told NeedToKnow.online.
“It was honestly the hardest thing we have ever had to go through.
“On Thursday 16 June at 9am, I carried Aria myself to the anaesthetist, where we were then told to give her a kiss and say goodbye.
“Mike and I both decided we didn’t want to stay in the hospital so we spent the whole day wandering around Bristol to try and pass the time, but minutes honestly felt like hours.
“We clock-watched all day waiting for the phone call for the outcome of her surgery. We tried to stay as positive as we could but it was extremely difficult.
“I felt like I was prepared for surgery day but words cannot describe the worry we went through.”
Natalie recalled not being concerned initially when nurses struggled to get clear pictures of Aria’s pulmonary arteries at the 20-week scan.
She said: “We had the appointment fairly soon after the scan, we were told not to worry as sometimes they just can’t get a clear picture and it was just a precautionary measure to get checked out.
“We were not particularly worried, as my two other children were perfectly healthy and we didn’t expect her to have a birth defect.
However, after further checks on 8 February, the worst case was confirmed to Natalie and her partner Mike, and they were told of their daughter’s heart defect.
After the scan, which took place in Cardiff, Natalie was told her daughter would need to be born in a hospital in Bristol.
She said: “The most worrying thing for me was going into pre-term labour as we weren’t sure how healthy she would be born.
“We were told she would need surgery within days of being born so I prayed I made it to my induction date, which I did, so she could be born in the best place for her.
“Aria was born on the evening of the 10 of June in St Michael’s hospital, we managed to spend a bit of time with her before she was taken to the neonatal unit.
“She was born at 6lbs 8, a healthy weight. We were well informed ahead of time that she would be spending a few days in intensive care.
“If we hadn’t had a diagnosis beforehand, we would never have guessed she had such a serious condition as she was absolutely perfect when born, and we expected the worst.”
Little Aria underwent the surgery to fix her heart, having her pulmonary artery corrected – which meant having a conduit fitted – and a ventricular septal defect repaired.
After what felt like “forever” for Natalie, at 6pm she was informed the surgery was successful.
She said: “It was so hard to see her with breathing tubes and all sorts of wires attached, but it was just amazing that she managed to pull through the surgery safely.
“She recovered extremely quickly, being out of intensive care less than 48 hours after surgery where she then went back onto dolphin ward to continue getting better each day.
“Six days post-surgery on 22 June we were transferred to Cardiff hospital for the remainder of her recovery.
“11 days after surgery, we were allowed to go home.”
Aria is now 16-weeks-old and, according to her doting mum, is doing “amazing”.
She now has check-ups every two months to ensure the conduit is doing its job and that her blood is flowing correctly. Aria will also need a further two surgeries in the future.
Natalie now wants to help raise some awareness on heart defects with the hopes of bringing “positivity to other families that are going through a similar situation”.
Mike’s mother and sister are also running the Cardiff half marathon to try and help raise money for the British Heart Foundation.