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VIDEO: Mum hails football mad son who had two open heart operations for a potentially deadly condition within months of being born “a miracle”

·7-min read

A mum-of-two has hailed her football mad son “a miracle” as the athletic youngster was diagnosed with a potentially deadly heart condition in the womb – enduring two open heart operations within months of being born.

Special educational needs coordinator Yasmin Caird, 41, was just 20 weeks pregnant in 2015 with her second son Rory, six, when doctors flagged something unusual at her regular scan.

Yasmin, who lives with her IT director husband, Ben, 44, and their boys Noah, eight, and Rory in Wokingham, Berkshire, said: “As a mother, it was devastating to hear that your baby will need major surgery once they are born.”

She added: “We took in the information that the hospital gave us and tried to just take one day at a time.

“We’re all incredibly proud of Rory and how far he has come since then.”

She will never forget the day when a sonographer told her something looked wrong on her baby scan.

Yasmin, pictured here with her husband, Ben, and their two sons, Rory and Noah. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Yasmin, pictured here with her husband, Ben, and their two sons, Rory and Noah. (Collect/PA Real Life)

She said: “We had gone for a routine scan at 20 weeks and certainly weren’t expecting anything to be wrong.

“A doctor looked at the ultrasound and sent us to St Thomas’ in London the following day to see a cardiology specialist there.”

It was at the hospital’s prenatal cardiology clinic that Yasmin’s baby was diagnosed with truncus arteriosus which, according to the NHS, is a rare heart defect, occurring when the two main arteries do not develop properly and remain as a single vessel.

Yasmin says Rory has come on in leaps and bounds since his operations. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Yasmin says Rory has come on in leaps and bounds since his operations. (Collect/PA Real Life)

This results in too much blood flowing to the lungs. Over time, this can cause breathing difficulties and damage the blood vessels inside the lungs and is usually fatal if left untreated.

Yasmin said: “It was a massive shock and such a blur. We were told that our baby would need surgery soon after birth. Until then, it was just a waiting game.

“I was monitored a lot more frequently after the diagnosis and I just took it one appointment at a time, trying not to get myself too worried.”

Baby Rory underwent open heart surgery at five days old. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Baby Rory underwent open heart surgery at five days old. (Collect/PA Real Life)

Baby Rory was born at St Thomas’ Hospital by emergency caesarean on April 8, 2015, and at five days old he had his first open heart operation at Evelina London Children’s Hospital.

Yasmin said: “I saw him briefly after he was born, but he was taken to the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) while I was stitched up and then I was sent to a recovery ward.

“I was able to visit him the next day and the day after. Then, he went in for the procedure at five days old.”

Yasmin says the Evelina London Children’s Hospital will continue to be part of the family’s lives as Rory needs ongoing intervention. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Yasmin says the Evelina London Children’s Hospital will continue to be part of the family’s lives as Rory needs ongoing intervention. (Collect/PA Real Life)

During open heart surgery, Rory had an artificial split created in the vessel.

Yasmin said: “They had to insert a fake branch into the vessel to help with Rory’s blood flow.

“Seeing him after his first open heart op was a massive shock.”

The rare heart defect would be fatal for Rory if left untreated. (Collect/PA Real Life)
The rare heart defect would be fatal for Rory if left untreated. (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “Although we had seen pictures, no one can prepare you for the reality of seeing your baby hooked up to a multitude of machines, their bodies full of wires and tubes.

“It was a month before we left hospital, but when he went back for a check-up at eight weeks old, he was kept in again.

“Doctors realised Rory’s condition was more complex than they had originally thought and he would need further treatment.”

Now Rory and Noah enjoy playing football together. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Now Rory and Noah enjoy playing football together. (Collect/PA Real Life)

Once he was readmitted, doctors considered sending the tiny baby for yet more surgery.

Yasmin said: “It was a bit touch and go for a while and he was very, very poorly and had gone into heart failure.

“When he was nine months, he ended up needing to go in for a second open heart operation.”

Rory underwent open heart operations to increase the size of his pulmonary artery. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Rory underwent open heart operations to increase the size of his pulmonary artery. (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “Doctors had to create a hole in his heart to release some of the pressure as they increased the size of the pulmonary artery.

“Rory will need ongoing intervention as he gets older, too. He will grow, but the fake branch in his heart won’t, so it’s likely he’ll need it replacing.

“But since the second surgery, we’re very lucky that he has come on leaps and bounds.”

Yasmin, pictured here after the London Marathon, with Noah and Rory. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Yasmin, pictured here after the London Marathon, with Noah and Rory. (Collect/PA Real Life)

Now a healthy, happy boy, Rory has just gone into year two at school and has recently started football and swimming lessons – things that Yasmin was not sure he would be able to enjoy given his difficult start in life.

She said: “It was so difficult in those first few years of his life. Rory was so unwell and in comparison to where he is now, it is remarkable.

“He has made such huge progress.”

She added: “He loves playing football and going swimming and, while there is a threshold of exercise that he can cope with, he manages to keep up with the other kids.

“The only time we notice any difference between him and his brother is when, occasionally, Rory will get tired more easily, which is due to his heart not being able to pump oxygen as quickly through his body.”

Since Rory’s recovery, Yasmin has run the London Marathon to raise money for Evelina London.

Rory is now taking football and swimming lessons. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Rory is now taking football and swimming lessons. (Collect/PA Real Life)

She said: “I’ve never run a marathon before and I doubt I’ll ever run one again, but it felt like an important way to give back.

“Even before Rory was born, Evelina London has been a very big part of our lives.

“Then he spent a lot of time in hospital during the first few years of his life, being cared for by a huge number of different staff. It sounds dramatic but they literally saved his life.”

Yasmin says it was touch and go during Rory’s first year of life, as he was in heart failure. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Yasmin says it was touch and go during Rory’s first year of life, as he was in heart failure. (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “We still go for regular check-ups and Rory will need ongoing interventions, so the hospital and the staff will continue to be part of our lives for years to come.

“I thought taking on the challenge of the marathon would be a small way of saying thank you for everything that Evelina London has done for us.”

And the gruelling run was a fantastic way to celebrate how far her amazing boy has come.

Rory, now six, is a keen footballer. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Rory, now six, is a keen footballer. (Collect/PA Real Life)

Yasmin said: “It was an experience I will never forget. The atmosphere was incredible, it was totally amazing to see so many people out supporting the runners.

“Throughout the marathon, it was wonderful to run through London, seeing the Embankment where we spent so much time while Rory was in hospital.

“I absolutely loved the first half, but for the last 10 miles I had to dig very deep and was eating every jelly baby, doughnut and Jaffa cake available to keep going!”

Yasmin ran the London Marathon to raise money for the hospital that saved her son’s life. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Yasmin ran the London Marathon to raise money for the hospital that saved her son’s life. (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “The family were all there to cheer me on, too, as I passed the finish line, which just made it so special.”

Dr Kuberan Pushparajah, consultant paediatric cardiologist at Evelina London is full of praise for Yasmin, Rory and their family.

He said: “I want to send a huge thank you and congratulations to Yasmin for completing the London Marathon.”

He added: “The parents of the children we see are exceptionally strong people, as Yasmin taking on this challenge proves.

“It is an immense pleasure to see Rory growing up and doing so well after such a tough start in life. I hope Yasmin is enjoying some well-earned rest after doing such an incredible job.”

To donate to Yasmin’s Just Giving page, visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/RoryCaird

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