Our little Christmas miracle: Parents' joy as youngest ever baby to have open heart surgery goes home for the first time
Five-month-old Jessica Muse is believed to be the youngest person ever to undergo open heart surgery when she was just 30 minutes oldLittle girl was born hypoplastic left-heart syndrome, meaning she essentially had half a heart as the left side did not workFinally gone home after nine operations and two rounds of open heart surgery
14:00 GMT, 13 December 2012
A baby girl who underwent open heart surgery at just 30 minutes old has been allowed home for the first time ever to celebrate Christmas.
Five-month-old Jessica Muse is believed to be the youngest person ever to undergo open heart surgery after she had the procedure half an hour after birth.
Jessica has spent her whole life in hospital, but today left the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle for the first time with her delighted parents Claire and Dom, so they can enjoy the festive season at home.
Five-month-old Jessica Muse, pictured with parents Claire and Dom, is believed to be the youngest ever person to undergo open heart surgery, just 30 minutes after she was born
Jessica was born hypoplastic left-heart syndrome, meaning she essentially had half a heart as the left side of her heart was severely underdeveloped and did not work.
The life-threatening condition was detected during Mrs Muse's 20-week scan and doctors also discovered she had an 'intact septum' meaning the top two chambers of her heart were fully closed.
Without surgery, Jessica would not survive after birth.
When she was born weighing 7lbs 5oz on July 16th this year by Caesarean section, Mrs Muse, 31, and husband Dom, 29, a process operator at a factory, only managed to get a quick glimpse of their daughter before she was whisked away immediately for surgery.
Jessica was born hypoplastic left-heart syndrome, meaning she essentially had half a heart as the left side was severely underdeveloped and did not work
Dr Asif Hasan performed the delicate operation on Jessica, whose heart was the size of a walnut, in an open heart procedure known as an atrial septostomy.
The top two chambers of her tiny heart were cut open and operation enabled her to survive long enough to have her next seven-hour long open heart procedure at ten days old.
At one point, her parents, who live in Newcastle, were told their daughter's chances of survival were 'very small' and feared she might not make it.
But after nine operations in total, including the two open heart surgeries, Jessica is battling back and is getting used to life at home.
Mrs Muse, a computer technician at Northumbria University, said: 'After Jessica was born, I literally heard her cry and she was whisked away to be operated on.
Now, after nine operations, including the two open heart surgeries, Jessica is getting used to life at home
'I just wanted to grab hold of her and keep her safe but I knew that she urgently needed the surgery.
'We've been told she's probably the youngest ever to have open heart surgery.
'Without the staff and surgeons at the hospital, Jessica wouldn't be here today. We can't thank them enough, they are brilliant.
'It's her first Christmas and it's so special. We didn't know if she'd even be here at this point.
'We didn't know whether to buy many presents at first because we weren't sure if she'd get to come home, but Jessica has a lot of gifts now, from us and friends.
'We managed to get the Christmas tree up for her too so we're really looking forward to it.
'Looking at her now, it's hard to believe that she's been through so much and we are so grateful to the Children's Heart Unit Fund at the Freeman.'
During surgery, the top two chambers of her tiny heart were cut open. This enabled her to survive long enough to have her next seven-hour long open heart procedure at ten days old
Jessica will also need a heart transplant when she is ten
Mrs Muse was unable to be by her daughter's side immediately after the birth because the Freeman does not have a maternity unit and spent an agonising night at the Royal Victoria Infirmary awaiting news about whether the operation had been a success.
She said: 'It was very scary not being there with her or knowing what was going on. 'Although we knew from a very early stage in my pregnancy that Jessica would be poorly, we didn't know exactly what would be wrong with her.
'Normally babies have surgery where a balloon is inserted through the veins and it opens up the heart, but Jessica had to have open heart surgery.
'The doctors couldn't tell us what would happen because it all depended on how she reacted and if she could cope, but the surgeon let me know as soon as possible that Jessica had made it.'
Following the second surgery, Jessica's sternum was left open and covered with a plastic film and it was eventually closed when she was three and a half weeks old.
She also met a special visitor during her final few days at the Freeman
Hospital. Ex-Newcastle United striker Alan Shearer has recently become patron of the Children's Heart Unit Fund charity
Her mother added: 'You could see her little heart beating underneath the film which was a little scary, but she needed it to survive.'
After the second operation, Jessica was also diagnosed with pulmonary lymphangiectasia, a lung condition which was caused due to her underdeveloped heart.
She had her last operation, a tracheostomy, at six weeks and one day old, to help her breathe.
Jessica faces two more operations – one at the end of January and another aged four to allow her heart to function properly. Eventually she will need a heart transplant, at around the age of ten.
Jessica also had a special visitor during her final few days at the Freeman Hosptal, ex-Newcastle United striker Alan Shearer, who this week took on the role of patron of the Children's Heart Unit Fund charity.
Mrs Muse said: 'She had her picture taken with Shearer holding her when he came to visit the hospital.'Dom says he's going to get the picture framed with a caption underneath it saying: “One legend meets another”.'