Mohammad Ahmed Baloch, a forty-day-old baby from Dera Allah Yar, Balochistan has become the first patient in Pakistan to survive on an artificial heart-lung machine for three days at Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH).
The baby was born with a severe heart defect, where the two major vessels that carry blood away from the heart were misconnected. What this meant was that he was a ‘blue’ baby and with less oxygen in the blood, always short of breath. Without surgery, he stood no chance of surviving.
Brought to the Hospital’s Emergency Room, he was just 10 days old when doctors performed an initial life-prolonging procedure. “We had to create a hole in his heart, between the right and left chambers, so that the bloods could mix better,” says Dr Mehnaz Atiq, the paediatric cardiologist.
At one month Ahmed was ready for the next step, an operation that ‘switches’ the heart’s blood vessels back to their normal position and would permanently correct the problem.
The operation itself went well, but after the surgery, Ahmed’s blood pressure started to drop and it soon became evident that he needed help for this failing heart. His paediatric cardiac surgeon, Dr Muneer Amanullah and paediatric cardiologist, Dr Babar Hasan agreed that artificial heart support would provide the time needed for his heart to rest, recover and function properly.
To save Ahmed’s life, the paediatric cardiac and critical care team – assisted by Dr Asif Hasan from UK - had to set-up a customised heart-lung bypass system that acted like an ECMO (Extra-Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation) machine, which is not available anywhere in Pakistan. It was the first such use of an ECMO procedure in the country.
“From Ijaz Hidayat, the chief perfutionist, who converted the cardiac bypass machine to an ECMO, to the pediatric cardiac ICU doctors and nurses who managed the ECMO, it was team work that helped us achieve this landmark success”, said Dr Babar Hasan.
“Although the ECMO period of 72 hours was most intensive for all team members, doctors and nurses, none of us can forget the amazing moment when the artificial support was taken off and the baby’s heart started beating on its own,” recalls Dr Amanullah, consultant paediatric cardiac surgeon. “His heart has fully recovered now and hopefully he is going home.”
Commenting on the procedure, Prof. Anita Zaidi, Chair, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health said that this is an extremely technically demanding undertaking and that “AKUH were successful shows how advanced and sophisticated our paediatric cardiac services and critical care team have become in a short space of time.”
The Hospital’s Patient Welfare Programme and the Patients’ Behbud Society for AKUH has supported Ahmed’s family. “We couldn’t have afforded this surgery without the Hospital’s assistance and very grateful for it,” says Sher Ahmed Baloch, Ahmed’s grandfather, a primary school teacher in Dera Allah Yar.
Rida Turabi, Senior Media Executive, Department of Public Affairs, Aga Khan University, Stadium Road, Karachi, on +92 21 3486 2931 or firstname.lastname@example.org