Baby born with six separate heart defects whose parents were told he would not survive stuns doctors with recovery
Riley had back-to-front valves, a large hole in
the heart, and various conditions that made his arteries thickParent told to consider abortion at 21-week scan but refused
Baby's heart stopped every time mother had contraction during labourBoy underwent heart operation when he was eight-hours old
11:45 GMT, 26 June 2012
A toddler who is thought to be the only child in the world born with SIX separate heart defects has stunned doctors by making an incredible recovery – after they warned his parents he would not survive.
Medics told Michelle and Darryl Lewis that their baby had an unheard of number of heart defects – and suggested they terminate the pregnancy at a 21-week scan. But the devastated couple refused – despite doctors’ fears that the baby would not survive the birth.
However, despite a difficult birth and surgery at just eight-hours old, followed by four more operations, young Riley recovered.
Although Riley will need to have further operations to replace heart shunts as he grows, medics are confident that Riley will be able to lead a normal life
Riley, pictured after his first operation, was born with six separate heart defects
He made such good progress that he was even well enough to be a pageboy at his parents’ wedding just seven months later.
Michelle, 32, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, said: 'The surgeons told us that it is nothing short of a miracle that Riley is here at all.
'Doctors told us having one heart defect was unlucky, but six was unheard of. They said he probably wouldn’t make it through the pregnancy, and even if he did, wouldn’t survive long after birth.
'We were devastated – but Darryl and I just turned to each other and we knew straight away there was no way either of us was going to give up on our baby.
'The rest of my pregnancy was terrifying – I lived in fear of something going wrong.
'When I went into labour, Riley’s heart stopped every time I had a contraction – we nearly lost him so many times. But he’s a tough little boy and he’s amazed all of us – he’s so strong, and we are so proud of him.'
The couple had no idea there were any complications with Michelle’s pregnancy until their 21 week scan – when nurses struggled to hear the heartbeat clearly.
Michelle was booked in for a specialist scan a week later at the Evelina Children’s Hospital, London, where the stunned couple were told the extent of Riley’s condition.
They were warned their unborn child was suffering from a back-to-front valves, a large hole in the heart, as well as various conditions that made his arteries thick and made it difficult for blood to pump around the body.
Riley, when he was a few days old: His heart stopped several times during his birth
Riley was well enough at seven months to act as pageboy at his parents wedding
Michelle said: 'The nurse’s face just dropped, and she went out of the room to get a doctor.
'I knew something was wrong and I just burst into tears before they had even told us what was wrong.
It was the worst feeling I’ve ever experienced in my life.The doctors said our baby’s heart was struggling to pump blood around his body, and he had so many complications he wouldn’t live.
'They said they’d never seen anything like it – having so many conditions was totally unheard of.
'They took us into a little room and advised us to terminate the pregnancy – but there was no way we would even consider it.
'They agreed to monitor me closely throughout the rest of the pregnancy, but it was terrifying. I was always thinking the worst was going to happen, but Darryl kept me positive and was my rock.
'I was induced and went into labour on Christmas eve, and it lasted 15 terrifying hours before doctors decided to perform an emergency caesarean on Christmas day 2010.
'I heard this little scream and the nurses held him up for me to see before he was whisked away. I remember seeing his big beautiful eyes and just pleading that he would keep fighting.'
Little fighter: Riley, bearing the chest scar following his heart operation
Riley was just eight hours old when he had his first heart surgery – an operation inserting a small balloon into enable his heart to pump blood through his arteries.
His parents kept a vigil by his bedside, and when he was just five days old, he underwent further operation to insert a shunt into his arteries.
And his terrified parents almost lost him again following an MRI scan when he was four months old – where the tot reacted violently to anaesthesis used to put him to sleep, causing his heart rate to shoot up to 260.
Michelle added: 'After his first operation, the surgeon came out and said to us he had no idea how Riley was still here – he said it was a real miracle.
'We just spent every minute by his side. He was recovering from his second operation on New Year’s Eve, and all the fireworks were going off outside the London Eye, just across the river from the hospital.
'The nurses kept asking if we wanted to go outside and watch, but we just wanted to stay with our little boy. It was the best New Year I’ve ever had, the three of us together.'
After five months in hospital, Riley was finally able to go home – and was even well enough to be pageboy at his parents’ wedding in July 2011.
And despite needing a further three operations in the last twelve months, doctors are amazed by Riley’s progress – and say he is doing much better than expected.
Although he will need to have further operations in the future to replace shunts as he grows, medics are confident that Riley will be able to lead a normal life.
Darryl said: 'I just can’t thank all the doctors and nurses at St Evelina’s hospital enough. If it wasn’t for their hard work and dedication, we probably wouldn’t have our little boy – we’ll always be in their debt.
'We are just two normal people – we don’t drink a lot, we don’t do drugs, we’re quiet living – we couldn’t understand why this had happened to us or how to deal with it.
'But the doctors and nurses were amazing looking after Riley, and looking after us too.
'Riley is our little superstar. I look at him and Michelle every day and just think how lucky I am to have them both.'