Baby born with serious heart defect prepares for first Christmas at home

A determined young mother who was warned that her baby was unlikely to reach her first birthday is preparing to celebrate Christmas at home with her daughter who is now 14 months old.

Chloe Conlin, 21, of Norwich, said she was advised more than 10 times to abort her baby but refused to give up on her.

Her daughter, Miyah, was born with a heart defect called right atrial isomerism, meaning she has half a heart, and underwent open-heart surgery on Christmas Eve last year.

Miyah has since taken her first steps and is now preparing for her first Christmas outside hospital, her mother said.

Miyah, now aged 14 months, is 'doing really well' at home after open-heart surgery, her mother said. (Sick Children's Trust/ PA)
Miyah, now 14 months old, is ‘doing really well’ at home after open-heart surgery, her mother said (Sick Children’s Trust/PA)

“She’s doing really well at the moment,” said Ms Conlin. “She’s started walking.

“They told me she wouldn’t be reaching her milestones.

“She took her first steps about three weeks ago.

“She’s running around now.

“She says ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’ and she shakes her head, ‘No’, she says ‘Ta’.

“She’s learning a lot more, she’s acknowledging a lot more as well.”

Ms Conlin said she previously had a stillbirth and learned of difficulties in her pregnancy with Miyah at 20 weeks.

Miyah was born with half a heart and had major surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital on Christmas Eve in 2018. (Sick Children's Trust/ PA)
Miyah was born with half a heart and had major surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital on Christmas Eve in 2018 (Sick Children’s Trust/PA)

“When I was pregnant they told me to have an abortion over 10 times because they said she wouldn’t be compatible with life, it would be a real struggle and she probably wouldn’t live until her first birthday,” she said.

Miyah was born at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and had open-heart surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London on Christmas Eve last year.

“She hasn’t had any major hospital admissions since then,” said Ms Conlin. “She’s been doing really well.

“She’s got another one coming up in the next couple of years and that will be her last surgery that they can do for her, then after that it will be to see how far she can actually go.

“They can’t fix her heart, they can only help her live longer, so it’s palliative care.”

She said the date of Miyah’s next operation depends on “when she deteriorates”, and that she will have check-ups at Great Ormond Street Hospital every four to six months.

She said it will be “amazing to celebrate Christmas at home” and plans to spend it with family and “a lot of presents to make up for last year”.

Ms Conlin was helped by The Sick Children’s Trust while Miyah was undergoing major surgery at Great Ormond Street.

The charity arranged for her to stay in its “Home from Home” accommodation, Guilford Street House, just a few minutes’ walk from Miyah’s hospital bedside, during her two-week admission.

Ms Conlin said it “meant the world” to her to be with her daughter while she was in hospital.

The Sick Children’s Trust runs 10 “Homes from Home” across the country, supporting families with children undergoing hospital treatment, which costs the charity £30 per family per night.

Chief executive Jane Featherstone said: “Sadly, not every child will be snuggled up in bed at home on Christmas Eve, excitedly waiting for Father Christmas to deliver their presents.

“Hundreds of children across the country will be in hospital, and every one of them should be with their family at Christmas.

“Our Homes from Home mean that families won’t have to worry about where they’ll stay.

“They can spend Christmas together.”

To donate, go to www.sickchildrenstrust.org/christmas

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