UAE: 3-year-old Abu Dhabi girl fights rare heart defect

Abu Dhabi - At only six days old, Annabella underwent a seven-hour Norwood procedure – a type of open-heart surgery


Ashwani Kumar

Published: Wed 29 Sep 2021, 9:13 PM

Last updated: Thu 30 Sep 2021, 5:16 PM

A three-year-old girl born with a rare heart defect has fought multiple surgeries to recently walk her way into pre-kindergarten.

Doctors of Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha) were able to successfully treat Annabella’s Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) – a complex birth defect.

It was in her 20th week of pregnancy that Abu Dhabi resident Samah Eksheir was referred to an antenatal specialist after her gynaecologist noticed abnormalities. Following a series of tests and medical investigation, the team diagnosed her baby with HLHS.

Annabella was delivered through a caesarean in March 2018 and rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit to prepare for a transfer to Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC).

At only six days old, she underwent a seven-hour Norwood procedure – a type of open-heart surgery, which involved an extensive reconstruction of the aorta.

Annabella recovered well and at seven months, underwent her second heart surgery – the Glenn procedure, which sends blood from the upper body directly to the lungs. This way, the single ventricle only must pump blood to the body and not to the lungs.

One week before her third birthday, Annabella had her third surgery – the Fontan procedure to restrict the mixing of oxygen-rich blood and oxygen-poor blood that usually happens with HLHS.

Dr Nishant Shah, consultant paediatric cardiology consultant at SKMC, said HLHS is one of the most complex cardiac defects seen in newborns.

“It is by far the most challenging case to manage among all congenital heart defects. As the designated center of excellence in paediatric cardiac services by the Department of Health, our world-class paediatric cardiologists developed a treatment plan with set timelines," he said.

"The treatment plan clearly outlined the series of three heart surgeries to be had before the age of four to restore physiology in absence of left sided pump. I am proud of the team as they were able to safely complete this before Annabella turned 3. After all the successful surgeries, it is heartening and rewarding seeing Annabella during clinic visits.”

Dr Nawal Al Kaabi, chief medical officer, SKMC, pointed out that the highly qualified and experienced team of physicians have managed to treat some of the most challenging and rare heart cases.

“It is a privilege to be part of the recovery journey alongside families and see children healthy and thriving. As true testament to Seha’s comprehensive medical care from birth to adulthood. Annabella will continue to follow up at SKMC, with the medical team that she knows and trusts.”

Samah is relieved now. She has been capturing all the key moments of Annabella’s life and posting them on Instagram account.


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“Every mother wishes for a healthy baby and so when my doctor broke the news regarding Annabella’s condition I was scared and worried. I soon mustered the courage as I knew I had to fight for her," Samah said.

She extended her gratitude to the SKMC team for their extraordinary care.

"Her first surgery felt like it took forever, I was completely numb the entire time, but I remember seeing the surgeon smiling at us from the paediatric intensive care unit and I felt instant relief.Annabella is healthy and just joined pre-kindergarten," she said.

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