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China’s Youngest Heart Surgery Patient

February 8, 2017
baby heart patient with mother at Shanghai Children's Medical Center in China

Chen Ju had dreamed of a healthy baby and an uneventful birth after learning she was pregnant.

But after traveling over 100 miles from her home in Zhejiang Province in eastern China to reach the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center (SCMC) when she was 28 weeks pregnant she got discouraging news.

In the opening chapter of what would become an extraordinary medical saga and human story, Chen was told by specialists, including pediatric cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Zhang YuQi at SCMC that her unborn baby boy suffered from a rare and complicated heart disease known as anomalous pulmonary venous drainage.

The condition occurs when the four veins that take blood from the lungs to the heart do not attach normally to the upper left chamber of the heart but instead fuse to another blood vessel or the wrong part of the heart.

The medical team, including Chief Pediatric cardiovascular Surgeon, Zheng JinHao, and cardiovascular surgeon, Dr. Zhu Zhong Qun, knew that baby Xiao Ji’s condition required immediate intervention.

When the baby was delivered by cesarean section on January 6, he was cyanotic (bluish discoloration indicating a lack of oxygen in the blood); further tests confirmed his blood oxygen levels were dangerously low. The baby was immediately transferred to the SCMC critical care unit where the cardiac surgery was performed on the newborn.  Following a complex two-hour procedure, the baby’s health improved very soon after surgery. 

baby heart patient at Shanghai Children's Medical Center in China

“The exceptionally talented medical team at SCMC made history again by operating on Xiao Ji and Project HOPE is immensely proud to share in this achievement as HOPE has helped train health professionals in pediatric heart surgery and clinical care at SCMC. I am thrilled to report the baby was discharged home in stable condition just 17 days after surgery,” said Lily Hsu, Program Director of Project HOPE in Shanghai.

SCMC is one of the world’s premier pediatric heart centers, performing lifesaving heart surgery on nearly 3,500 children each year.  Project HOPE helped develop the facility, which opened in 1998, and has provided more than $37 million in medical equipment. HOPE continues to support SCMC with at least a dozen training programs for professional health care workers in the areas of critical care, children’s nutrition, patient safety, epilepsy, diabetes, pediatric asthma, cancer care, and medical equipment support.

Dr. Zheng Jinhao with baby Xiao Ji at Shanghai Children's Medical Center

"This intricate surgery is another indication of how Project HOPE's mission to support health professionals and facilities like SCMC offers the gift of life for generations to come," said Ms. Hsu.

Project HOPE has been involved in efforts to improve the health of communities in China for more than 30 years through a strong partnership with the National Health and Family Planning Commission in addressing needs and advancing health professional training with the support of corporate partners.  China’s large population, diverse demography, and rapid economic development have had a major impact on the needs for and distribution of health care services.   

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