THE parents of a baby girl who has received a donor heart after a wait of almost six months have spoken of their joy.
Eleven-month-old Llana Qazi has relied on a mechanical heart to keep her alive since October last year.
When she began struggling to sleep and feed properly in September, her mother, Shaz, 39, took her to the doctors.
Tests at South Tyneside District Hospital revealed Llana had a murmur on her heart, and she was transferred to Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital for specialist treatment.
She was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, which affects the heart muscles and meant hers was not strong enough to work on its own.
Shaz and her husband Muhammed, 47, of South Shields, were told Llana urgently needed a heart transplant, and she was placed at the top of the transplant list.
While the family faced an anxious wait, Llana was put on a Berlin Heart – a machine which helps the left side of her heart pump blood around her body.
The tot required a further four of the artificial heart machines, as they could not keep her stable.
The family waited desperately for news of a donor, and their prayers were answered on February 29, when they received a call that a suitable heart had been found.
Doctors warned Llana had only a 50/50 chance of survival.
The operation was an initial success, but Llana’s life hung in the balance after her new heart stopped for 63 minutes the day after the transplant.
Her lungs collapsed and she went into cardiac arrest.
Surgeons at the Freeman saved her life once again, and Llana spent 18 hours on an ECMO machine, which acted as her heart and lungs while she regained her strength.
Now her parents hope their daughter can go home within weeks to join her brothers and sisters, – Zermeen, 13, Ahmed, 14, Maria, 19, Jassan, 20, and Saad, 22.
Shaz, a former chef, said: “Someone has given her a new life – it’s the biggest gift you can give someone and we are so grateful.
“She’s finally had it and she’s doing really well.
“We couldn’t believe it when they came in and told us a heart had been found. It isn’t a tissue match – the same size and age as hers – but it is a blood match.
“It’s a big heart - it’s come from a five-year-old child - but they didn’t want to lose it.
“It was a big decision and we didn’t know what to do, so we told the surgeon and consultant to make the decision for us.
“They told us there was a 50/50 chance of her surviving the operation.
“The transplant took 11 hours, and it was so hard waiting for her to come out of the operating theatre, we prayed all the time.
“She’s still on the ward in a side cubicle, kept away from other patients because she is very susceptible to germs on anti-rejection medication which she will take for the rest of the her life.
“But it’s a small price to pay for the chance to lead a normal life.”
Llana’s parents hope she will be able to go home for her first birthday.
Shaz said: “Her recovery has been slow but she is getting there – she’s a tough cookie.
“At the moment there are issues with her lungs because she is only small, so the heart is putting a lot of pressure on her other organs.
“I have asked her consultant, Dr Richard Kirk, if we can take her home for her birthday, but they say it’s too early to tell. They want her to recover well.”
The family plan on a huge celebration for Llana’s homecoming, and her mum is looking forward to giving her daughter a normal life.
She said: “I just want to be able to do normal things with her – take her out in a buggy and have bath and bed times together – we’ve missed so much family time.
“She doesn’t even know her home or her brothers and sisters yet.
“She thinks the nurses are her family, and in a way they are. She will be looking for the nurses when she goes home.
“They have all been so marvellous. It’s been a hard time here, and we are still on a long road here, but they all cheer me up so much.”
Lynne Holt, one of the transplant co-ordinators at the Freeman Hospital, said: “Llana is doing really well and she’s looking just great, so we’re very pleased.
“The stress the parents go through cannot be described and how they cope we don’t know, but they somehow manage.”
To sign up to the organ transplant list and help save lives simply text the word “SAVE” to 84118.