MANHASSET, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Doctors knew it was a dangerous operation, but it was the only choice they had to save the life of a little Huntington boy.
Last spring, after several check-ups during her pregnancy, Suzanne Francis learned her unborn child was suffering from a potentially life-threatening heart condition called pericarditis, in which there is a dangerous accumulation of fluid around the heart.
“The dreaded ‘there’s a problem with the baby.’ I don’t think I’ll every forget those words,” Francis told CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown.
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The condition could decrease the amount of blood being pumped from the heart, compress the lungs and lead to heart failure. The only solution was to draw the fluid out of the heart when Dante Francis was only an 18-week-old fetus.
“I was pretty much preparing myself for the worst and cried a lot over it,” Suzanne Francis said.
Suzanne said she prayed and trusted her doctors.
Using ultrasound technology, Dr. Nidhi Vohra and a team of specialists at North Shore University Hospital were able to successfully perform the surgery when Dante’s heart was just the size of a quarter.
Using a tiny needle inserted through Suzanne’s abdomen, doctors drained fluid from Dante’s tiny heart.
“The needle was right next to the beating heart and we removed just about half a teaspoon of fluid from that sac,” Vohra told reporters. “And that was just enough for the heart to then come back to its normal size.”
Doctors said the surgery was necessary to ensure Dante’s lungs would grow normally. It was the first such procedure performed at the hospital. It has been performed only 10 times throughout the world.
The procedure is very rare, but the problem Dante had is actually very common, Brown reported.
“Some of these will go away on their own, but if there’s a pericardial effusion, which is not getting better, if anything it’s getting worse, and there’s a risk to the fetus, it’s worth doing this procedure,” Dr.Vohra told Brown.
Little Dante is celebrating 10 months of life this week and is very healthy.
“He could eat anything and he’s just an active boy,” his mother said.
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