Jacob born with half a heart

Photo Neil Cross'Sarah and Matt Eastham of Cottam, with baby Jacob, who was born with half a heart
Photo Neil Cross'Sarah and Matt Eastham of Cottam, with baby Jacob, who was born with half a heart
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A baby boy born with half a heart faces major surgery in his battle to survive.

To look at, little Jacob Eastham looks healthy and well, but his innocent face hides a ticking timebomb.

Jacob, who is three-months-old, was born with the rare and life threatening condition Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome with tricuspid atresia, which means the right side of his heart is underdeveloped leading to his body being unable to pump enough blood to his lungs.

Many babies diagnosed with the rare condition die within days of birth, but luckily for Jacob, doctors picked up on the syndrome during mum Sarah’s 20-week pregnancy scan allowing his parents to prepare themselves for the battle ahead.

Sarah, 31, who lives in Cottam, Preston, says the day of the scan was one of the worst of their lives when they realised something serious was wrong with their baby.

Sarah, who is a teacher at Penwortham Priory Academy and is married to Matt who is deputy head at the school, said: “While doing the scan, the sonographer could not find the top of the heart and called a consultant to have a look.

“Then another consultant came into the room and we were filled with dread and worry for our baby.”

The couple, who also have a two-year-old son Leo, were referred to St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester where a specialist diagnosed their unborn baby with the rare condition.

The condition puts extra strain on the working side of the heart as it compensates for the defective part of the heart. This strain eventually leads to the organ wearing out.

Sarah said: “I had to have scans every two weeks of my pregnancy and we saw heart specialists who explained things to us.

“Then the next big hurdle was getting to the birth and we just wanted everything with Jacob to be OK.”

Jacob was born weighing 8lb 3oz and if his parents hadn’t already known the heart problem revealed by the scan, they would not have imagined there was anything wrong.

Sarah said: “The condition can go undiagnosed and some babies who do not have it picked up live for two or three months and then suddenly die when their hearts fail.

“We feel very lucky that Jacob’s condition was diagnosed at such an early stage, because although we face a lot of obstacles ahead, at least we can prepare ourselves for them and know what signs to look out for.”

Jacob faces major surgery to re-route his major arteries directly to his lungs to improve the flow of oxygen.

Usually, babies diagnosed with the condition need surgery within the first few weeks of life to stabilise their blood flow but as Jacob’s blood flow is quite stable, doctors are hoping he will be able to skip this stage.

There is no cure for the heart defect and surgery cannot replace or fix the underdeveloped ventricles of the heart.

However, surgical procedures can re-route the flow of blood ensuring that the functioning left ventricle does the work and circulates blood to the body.

Jacob will face his first major heart operation when he is around six-months-old which will connect some of the veins that carry blood from the body to blood vessels that carry blood to the lungs.

Sarah said: “Jacob’s heart cannot be mended, but it can be ‘re-plumbed’ so he can live as normal a life as possible.

“At the moment, apart from having lots of regular check-ups, Jacob seems fine, although he does occasionally go a bit blue, but this soon passes.

“Because his heart is not efficient, it is having to work a lot harder, so Jacob is burning off a lot of calories, so we will need to give him high calorie milk to make sure he has enough.

“It is very frightening and worrying to know that Jacob faces such major surgery, but we know it will make him better.

“He is a lovely little boy and all we want is for him to be able to live a happy and healthy life.”