At our 20 week scan, I was expecting everything to be completely fine, confident as I’d already had two scans which had shown nothing out of the ordinary. During the scan the sonographer called someone else in to have a look, which was the first sign that something wasn’t right. They told me that my baby’s heart was on the wrong side – the right instead of the left, but this may not be a problem. They referred me to St Georges hospital in Tooting for a specialist fetal heart scan to check why this was happening.
So, at 25 weeks, my husband Dave and I made the journey to London. At this point I was fine and confident that nothing serious was wrong. The heart scan was fine, and the heart was functioning normally, just on the wrong side. We went into another room to see if they could find out the reason for the abnormality. After a very long scan, where a lot of problems had been eliminated, a consultant was called in to look. He glanced at the screen, said “CDH”, put his hand on my shoulder, smiled at me sympathetically and left the room.
I sat up and the consultant who had done the scan spoke to us and explained what CDH was. Our baby had a left side diaphragmatic hernia, which meant that some bowel was in the chest restricting the growth of the left lung and pushing the heart across, which could restrict the growth of the right lung, but we wouldn’t know until the baby was born. We were then told our baby had a 65% chance of survival, and the bottom fell out of my world. I couldn’t stop the tears, no matter how strong I tried to be.
The rest of the pregnancy went by in a blur of worry and scans, but the news never got worse, and they said all the signs were positive.
I went into hospital to be induced on 11th October 2010, and after several attempts at induction, 12 hours of contractions and a C-Section, our little boy Zach was born on 16th October. We briefly heard our boy cry and saw his face before they whisked him off to the neo-natal unit.
After 8 hours, I went to see him for the first time, and sat until 2am just watching him, even though he was paralysed. He had his operation to correct the hernia on day 2 of his life, performed via keyhole – no scars! Each day he got stronger and stronger, until day 6 when his lungs collapsed – the worst day of my life so far. He was put back on full ventilation. Once he had that support he thrived, and we were transferred to our local hospital after only 2 weeks. Saying goodbye to the nurses and staff was emotional. We were happy to leave but scared of anything going wrong once we were out of the secure environment of the unit. Everything went as planned and 2.5 weeks after Zach was born, we came home.
I can’t explain how grateful I am to the neo-natal nurses, the surgeons and everyone involved in saving our little boys life. Reading the stories of these CDH babies always makes me cry, and I wish anyone going through this the best of luck and support, and the happiest of endings.
Lots of love, the Halls x