Baby Girl’s Grape sized Heart saved by Pioneering Surgery

Baby Rheya’s chances of survival appeared to be dim after doctors found had three rare heart defects shortly after she was born.  Thankfully, doctors were able to perform a keyhole surgery that bought them time for a bigger operation down the road.

Born to parents Dave and Claire, Rheya Tooke’s heart was the size of a grape when a world’s first surgery saved the infant.

When she was born surgeons found that the 5lb infant had a hole in her heart, a vessel that leaked blood into her lungs and a malformed artery. The baby was too small and fragile to undergo a major surgery, but without something in the interim her chances of survival were close to nil.

It was then that cardiologist Dr Joseph Vettukattil decided to perform an operation never before performed on a patient this small.

He made a tiny incision on her chest to clip the leaky vessel and also insert a tube that could help her artery boost the blood flow.

The surgery gave the doctors the time needed for her to grow stronger and perform the major operations, four months later.

Dr Vettukattil, of Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust in Hampshire, said, “The aim was to get blood to the right places and to close the hole in her heart, but she was too small to withstand surgery. Her heart was the size of a small grape. The keyhole procedure allowed us to buy time and to let her grow a little before the major operation.”

A decorator by profession, Dave of Chichester, West Sussex, said,

 “The risk paid off and our beautiful daughter’s alive. It’s incredible to think how small her heart was. The doctors were first class, we can’t thank them enough.”

Little Rheya is now 6 months old and thriving at home after a nine hour operation that help fix her heart.


Image credit: peterjunaidy / 123RF Stock Photo



About the author


Atula is a writer, traveler and a nature-lover. She is also mom to a boy who seems to have inherited all her creative genes. When Atula is not busy making up stories with her son, she writes for numerous magazines, websites and blogs. She is also working on her site on endangered species called

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