PULL AT YOUR HEARTSTRINGS
Olivia Whinfield’s story is sure to ...
‘ 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.’’
LITTLE TROOPER: Olivia after having open heart surgery.
I’M HOME: Olivia is happy to be home after having open heart surgery in July.