Six-month-old Zhavia Hadaway has a bright future following a successful life-saving surgery at Long Beach Medical Center Tuesday that corrected a heart defect she was born with.
On the Hadaway family’s home island of Barbados, there is not a pediatric surgeon capable of performing the operation. But through a new partnership between World Pediatric Project and Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach, Zhavia and her mother, Shenica, were flown to Southern California for the procedure.
“I’m happy,” Shenica said after the surgery, adding that she is still nervous seeing her daughter connected to machines with tubes and wires. “But I feel a lot better.”
Zhavia was born with a condition known as Tetralogy of Fallot, which causes oxygen-poor blood to flow out of the heart and into the rest of the body. The disorder is caused by a hole in the wall between the two lower chambers of the heart, along with several other defects with the organ.
Symptoms of Tetralogy of Fallot include a bluish skin color, problems eating, failure to gain weight, development delays and episodes of passing out. The condition’s severity varies patient-to-patient, and Zhavia’s case was moderate to severe, according to Dr. Saar Danon, medical director of pediatric cardiology and congenital cardiac catheterization at Miller Children’s.
“She would probably be OK for a few more months and then eventually become more and more blue,” Danon said before the operation. “And then she’d likely not be able to survive into late childhood.”
The focus of the surgery was to fill the roughly 7 millimeter hole between the two heart chambers using tissue from the lining of the heart. Surgeons Dr. Shaun Setty and Luke Wiggins opened Zhavia’s chest cavity, exposing the tissue, known as the pericardium. Performing a procedure known as a pericardiectomy, the surgeons removed a portion of the tissue, which was treated and used to close the hole.
During the operation, surgeons also cut a valve that was too small to allow blood to flow freely. This is a temporary fix, and Zhavia will need to have a valve placed in 10 or 15 years, Setty explained.
“Everything went great, exactly how we planned,” surgeon Dr. Shaun Setty said following the surgery. “We didn’t have any problems during the case. The ultrasound looks really good.”
After being discharged from the hospital in the coming days, Setty said Zhavia will return over the next few weeks for checkups, including X-rays and ultrasounds.
Since arriving in Long Beach, the Hadaways have stayed at the Ronald McDonald house, with all meals and transportation either donated or provided by the World Pediatric Project. The medical care, including the time of doctors and nurses, also was free of charge.
The World Pediatric Project has helped over 15,000 since its founding in 2002. Zhavia’s was the first surgery under the new partnership, which brings patients from less developed countries directly to doctors for treatment, as opposed to doctors traveling abroad.
Setty, who has taken part in more than a dozen missions trips providing medical care to underserved communities around the world, said he looks forward to the continued partnership. He will perform as many pro bono surgeries as World Pediatric Project wants, he said.
Shenica, meanwhile, is ready to return to life on the island after the gift her family has received.
“I’m really grateful,” Shenica said. “After the next few days and weeks pass, it’s good to get back to being normal.”