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Pioneering heart procedure saves Emirati baby’s life

Dr Yates, Omar and his mum

Omar’s story

Omar was born premature at just 30 weeks with growth restriction and low birthweight. He was found to have Shone’s complex; a rare congenital heart disease which means he has defects in the left side of his heart.

He underwent an initial surgery to fix this problem, which resulted in complications which meant Omar had to stay in a local Neonatal Intensive Care Unit receiving daily care and dependent on a ventilator for months so he could grow. With Omar needing specialist treatment, he was transferred to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London (GOSH), which treats over 1,500 children from the Middle East every year for rare and complex conditions.

At GOSH, Omar was under the care of Dr Robert Yates, Consultant and Honorary Lecturer in Peadiatric and Fetal Cardiology at GOSH. Omar arrived at the London-based hospital only weighing 3.2KG and had complications including chronic lung disease, pulmonary hypertension, retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).

Omar had an initial heart operation soon after he arrived at the hospital but within 8 weeks of Omar’s arrival in UK a further cardiac operation was needed to address poor clinical progress and recurrent mitral valve stenosis- a narrowing of the heart’s mitral valve.

Too small for mitral valve replacement

“Mitral valve replacement was our only option but as Omar was too small for a mechanical valve, we opted for a modified stented valve as an alternative. We needed to modify the valve for his size, its novel position in the heart, as well as putting the valve upside down. This valve would avoid the use of blood thinners and allowed for subsequent dilatation of the stented valve as he grows bigger,” explains Dr Yates.

“The original cardiac surgery technique was pioneered over 15 years ago by GOSH and is now used all over the world. The technique allows doctors to implant new pulmonary heart valves without opening up the patient’s chest. Since its introduction, GOSH has worked to adapt and evolve the technique and now use the same stent mounted heart valve to replace the mitral valve in small babies, such as Omar. Omar is the first Emirati patient to ever receive this treatment,” continues Dr Yates, who is currently speaking at Dubai’s Arab Health Exhibition on paediatric cardiology. 

Omar also received subsequent laser eye surgery for a serious eye disease called ROP, a surgery that saved his eyesight. His previous gastronomy insertion was supplemented by an additional surgical procedure, called Nissen’s fundoplication, to improve his reflux and help with weight gain, and he also had an inguinal hernia repair.

My husband and I were absolutely worried and afraid during each procedure Omar had. All operations pose risks, so I guess it’s a normal feeling for parents to be worried. We try to always keep a very high optimism. Dr. Yates always made us feel that he will take care of Omar the very best way he can. We are very blessed to have the opportunity to be able to get treatment abroad,” said Omar’s mum. “We give thanks to H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al Maktoum, Dubai Police, Dubai Health Authority, and the UAE Embassy in London for giving us the opportunity to get this life saving treatment for our son. We also want to thank Ms. Amal Al Qubaisi for her support throughout our stay, and her hard work to ensure Emiratis get the best treatment while in London. God bless them all.”

Omar’s recovery was prolonged and required complex holistic care involving multiple specialties, as well as physiotherapy, speech and language therapy, and play therapy. As a result of his parents continuing to fight for their son, as well as the hard work of the staff both in the cardiac intensive care unit, and Flamingo and Hedgehog wards at GOSH, Omar is now doing well.

Hope for the future

Looking towards the future, Omar’s dad explains they have great hope for Omar. “All parents have great hope for their children. Our hope is for Omar to be well, healthy and strong as he grows up and for him to be able to live a normal, happy and productive life independently. For him to be able to go to school, graduate, get a good job and have a family of his own later on.”

“I just want to tell all the parents out there who are having the same problems, like my son, to never stop seeking help. Keep very high hopes, even when people give you bad news or use negative words. We are parents and we never quit; we always keep fighting for our rights even if it is the end of the journey, God always listens to the sincerest prayers. Always listen to your instincts and always pray every second, every minute, every hour, every day until God answers everything,” concludes Omar’s mum.

About Cardiology at GOSH

GOSH has led global advances in treating children born with cardiac conditions. The cardiac team at GOSH have conducted more than 500 lung and heart transplants since the cardiac unit opened, have pioneered non-surgical replacement of pulmonary heart valves, and play a leading role in developing alternatives to surgery for other heart conditions.

Dr Robert Yates, Consultant and Honorary Lecturer in Pediatric and Fetal Cardiology at GOSH will be attending Arab Health to talk about the role of pediatric consultants with expertise in cardiology, in partnership with a doctor from Saudi Arabia.

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