Monday, August 28, 2006

Alyssa Reynolds-Tonks was born in Napier. Although she was a full-term baby, she weighed only 2.54 kg (5lb 11oz). Problems were noticeable immediately as Alyssa had to be resuscitated at birth. At just three days old her parents were told she had a heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot, and a few days later she was transferred to Green Lane Hospital.

Further tests revealed Alyssa had a much more complex heart condition than at first thought. Not only did she have Tetralogy of Fallot, but she also had Pulmonary Atresia, a diminutive pulmonary artery, multiple aorto-pulmonary collateral arteries and she patent ductus arteriosis (PDA).

She was allowed home but at six weeks old Alyssa’s health began deteriorating. Back she went to the local hospital where she was given a prostaglandin infusion to keep her PDA from closing until she could go to Green Lane for surgery. Before the infusion was able to be put on, Alyssa’s oxygen levels dropped right down to 40 per cent of normal levels.

At seven weeks Alyssa had her first open heart surgery to insert a shunt into her heart. After the surgery her mother, Yvonne, noticed Alyssa was very limp. A cranial ultra sound found the little one had suffered a stroke affecting the right side of her body. Genetic testing revealed that Alyssa has a syndrome called Partial Di George Syndrome or Velocardiofacial Syndrome (VCFS), which have caused many other problems over the years.

In September 1997, Alyssa had a full Tetralogy repair and anastomosis of her collaterals carried out. She has also had many catheters to try to widen her pulmonary arteries. The right one was done easily, but the left one has proven difficult.

At the beginning of 2005, Alyssa underwent her fourth, and this time successful, attempt at widening her (Left Pulmonary Artery (LPA). She was sent home with the news that her heart was in ship-shape condition, she could come off all diuretics, and the cardiologist wouldn’t need to see her for a few years. Her parents were overjoyed but just a week later they received a phone call from the cardiologist, informing them that Alyssa had a leaky pulmonary valve which would need replacing within the next year. In the meantime, her parents should be on the lookout for signs of heart failure. It didn’t take long before the first signs of this became obvious and a very sick little girl was back in Hastings Hospital with pulmonary oedema. She was put back on her diuretics and soon recovered.

In May this year, Alyssa had open heart surgery again, this time to replace her pulmonary valve and conduit and also to alter the shape of her LPA which was bent. Alyssa recovered very quickly from this surgery and has since been taken off her diuretics again as well as her asprin.

Alyssa has just turned 10. Despite delays in her development, she attends Frimley Primary School, a mainstream school where she is doing well. Alyssa is a very happy little girl with many friends. She is on the netball team at school and doesn’t let anything hold her back. Yvonne says, “Alyssa is a true inspiration and has taught me a great many lessons.”

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