PULL AT YOUR HEARTSTRINGS

Olivia Whin­field’s story is sure to ...

The Riverine Herald - - NEWS - By Ivy Wise

‘ She got bron­chi­oli­tis and was flown to the Royal Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal where doc­tors found that her heart valve had not closed prop­erly and she had two other heart ’ holes in her

OLIVIA Whin­field doesn’t re­alise how lucky she is.

The five-year-old just wants to go back to kin­der­garten, so she can play with her friends. But she can’t. Not yet any­way. Be­cause she is still re­cov­er­ing from open heart surgery — to re­pair a leaky valve and close two holes in her heart.

Re­turn­ing home just over a month ago, Olivia will have to wait un­til next term be­fore she can go back to kin­der­garten.

‘‘It’s still a bit too risky to go back yet, es­pe­cially with the flu go­ing around,’’ mum Karen said.

‘‘I think she’s get­ting a bit bored of me though and she is re­ally start­ing to miss her friends.’’

But for the scar along her chest, you wouldn’t know Olivia has re­cently had ma­jor surgery.

The cheeky young­ster was born with a heart con­di­tion, but it wasn’t picked up un­til she was about three weeks’ old.

‘‘She got bron­chi­oli­tis and was flown to the Royal Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal where doc­tors found that her heart valve had not closed prop­erly and she had two other holes in her heart,’’ Karen said.

‘‘By the time they re­alised, she was al­ready start­ing to shut down.’’

It was Olivia’s fa­ther and Karen’s hus­band Brian who re­alised some­thing wasn’t quite right with his daugh­ter.

‘‘He picked her up and said ‘some­thing’s wrong with her’ be­cause she felt re­ally floppy,’’ Karen said.

‘‘We took her to the ma­ter­nity ward and they ran with her straight to emer­gency.

‘‘That’s when we knew she was re­ally sick.’’

By that af­ter­noon, Olivia was at the RCH where she spent the next week.

‘‘It was all such a blur,’’ Karen said.

Doc­tors ex­plained Olivia’s heart con­di­tion, but be­cause it wasn’t af­fect­ing her at that stage, they de­cided just to keep mon­i­tor­ing her.

‘‘She wasn’t symp­to­matic and they wanted to wait un­til she was older be­cause once they start op­er­at­ing on the heart, it can lead to other prob­lems,’’ Karen said.

So for the next few years, Olivia

— Karen Whin­field

went for six-monthly check-ups with a car­di­ol­o­gist.

But in Jan­uary this year, the car­di­ol­o­gist said he couldn’t wait any longer.

‘‘The valve was quite leaky,’’ Karen said.

‘‘We knew it was prob­a­bly go­ing to hap­pen around the age of four or five but it was still a shock.’’

On July 28, Olivia went in for open heart surgery where doc­tors re­paired the valve and car­ried out a clo­sure of the atrial sep­tal de­fect — the hole in the wall that sep­a­rates the two up­per cham­bers of the heart.

The op­er­a­tion lasted about five hours — the long­est five hours of the Whin­fields lives.

‘‘It was pretty nervewrack­ing, but we tried to keep our­selves busy and not think about it,’’ Karen said.

Thank­fully the op­er­a­tion was a suc­cess and af­ter a week in hospi­tal, Olivia was al­lowed to go home.

‘‘We’ve had our first check-up since the op­er­a­tion and the valve has been a bit leaky but that’s to be ex­pected,’’ Karen said.

‘‘She’ll have an­other check-up in three months’ time and reg­u­lar check-ups in the fu­ture.

‘‘We don’t re­ally know what’s go­ing to hap­pen when she gets older but it’s some­thing we’ll just play by ear.’’

In the mean­time, it’s busi­ness as usual.

And look­ing for­ward to go­ing back to kin­der­garten next month and start­ing school next year — where she will join big brother Ma­son, 8, at Echuca 208 Pri­mary School.

Karen thanked the Echuca com­mu­nity for all their well wishes and mes­sages of sup­port over the past few months, as well as the great work of the RCH.

‘‘We couldn’t ask for a bet­ter hospi­tal. We are so lucky to have them.’’

Photo: sub­mit­ted

LIT­TLE TROOPER: Olivia af­ter hav­ing open heart surgery.

I’M HOME: Olivia is happy to be home af­ter hav­ing open heart surgery in July.

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