“My baby was born with a hole in her heart”

Pearlyn Tham was hoping the hole in her newborn’s heart would close by itself, but it ended up needing surgery…

“On the 9th of September 2014, our trio grew to become a family of four with the arrival of our second daughter, Edele. I had a routine C-section and everything went smoothly. Our daughter Edlyn, who was then 2, was excited to become an older sister.

While getting her newborn tests done, our paediatrician heard a murmur in Edele’s heart. A murmur usually shows up as an extra or unusual sound in addition to a normal heartbeat. However, he assured us that the noise will be gone in a few days as the valve in the heart should close by itself in a week. 

Happy to hear that all was well, we got discharged after four days and took Edele home. We initially noticed that our baby was sleeping a lot. She would even sleep through her feedings, which was supposed to happen every two to three hours. When she did feed, each session would take longer than 30 minutes.

I was worried if Edele was getting enough milk since she didn’t feed regularly and took such a long time to complete a feeding. To make sure she had sufficient nutrition, I decided to pump my breastmilk and feed it to her using a bottle, so that I could monitor her intake.

We kept hoping the issue would resolve by itself, but when we went back a week later, the murmur was still there.

During the routine check-up with our paediatrician on the second week, he noticed that the murmur was still there. Our doctor didn’t seem too concerned and he told us it still wasn’t time to worry yet. We kept hoping the issue would resolve by itself, but when we went back a week later, the murmur was still there.

We were then referred to a cardiologist at Mount Elizabeth hospital. Tests and scans were done on our little girl which showed that the valve, which was supposed to have closed by now, was still open and there was a small hole there.

For the next four weeks scans were done on a weekly basis to monitor the heart and estimate the size of the hole.

Things didn’t seem to be getting better, so we were given two choices. The first was to put Edele on medication, which may or may not work. There was also a chance that the side effects from the meds might affect the organs. Alternatively, there was surgery. It sounded scary to put a tiny baby through that, but the doctors assured us that it was very basic.

Trying to figure out the best medical route for our newborn baby was quite a stressful time to say the least.

What did Pearlyn and her family end up choosing? Read on to find out…