Little Reuben Weber-Jackson was just two weeks old when doctors realised that he had a heart defect. But thanks to an innovative surgery using tissues from a cow’s heart, the baby boy is a thriving one-year-old.
Reuben’s mother, 29 year old Petra said, “When we were told there was something wrong with Reuben’s heart, words cannot describe the fear, the terror, the panic and distress.”
Scans taken at the specialist heart centre at Glenfield Hospital showed that the infant had two holes in his heart. Doctors also found that the two main arteries to the body and the lungs were the wrong way round.
Surgeons however, assured the parents that the condition was treatable.
On April 15 last year, the baby boy has his first surgery. It lasted from morning 9 am till 5 pm in the evening. Four days later he had another operation and it was during this second procedure that the cow heart tissues were used to repair the holes of his heart.
The procedure is known as bovine pericardial patch, and it worked perfectly!
Attilio Lotto, a consultant congenital cardiothoracic surgeon at Leicester’s hospitals, said,
“Although it is one of the more common heart operations we perform on newborns, bovine pericardial is still a very difficult procedure. It is essential for creating normal circulation. Bovine tissue is used as it is thicker and has proved to be more biocompatible, but we are constantly striving for improved materials and hope one day to be able to use engineered products individually designed for each patient.”
The doctor added that there were also a number of other substances like metal, plastic, Dacron, Gore-tex and other synthetic materials to repair human hearts.
Followed by a number of other small procedures ,and a stay of eight weeks at the hospital the newborn was finally allowed to go home.
Petra said, “There were times I thought we were close to losing Reuben, but he is doing really well now. We are so grateful to the doctors and for the care he had at Glenfield Hospital.”
The family is now planning to raise money for Leicestershire charity Heart Link that supports parents whose children are born with heart defects.
“Heart Link provides the parent accommodation at the hospital. It made a huge difference to be able to stay in the same building as Reuben. The charity also bought 10 breast pumps, which were about £1,000 each.”
Earlier they raised £62 for the charity at Reuben’s first birthday party, which had a Wizard of Oz theme.
“With the tin man receiving a new heart and the lion’s courage, it was quite fitting,” said the mother. “We are also planning a family fun day in Beverley in September to raise money for Heart Link.
“Until it happened to us we had never heard of congenital heart defects. We are lucky things are looking good for Reuben.”
Reuben has older siblings seven year old William and four year old Johannes.