Hannah’s BT Shunt Operation

It’s only Friday? Hannah’s first day felt like it lasted for much longer than 24 hours, but I guess that’s what happens when you’re born so early in the morning!!

On Wednesday we spent lots of time with Hannah getting used to life in the Grace Centre (Newborn Intensive Care Unit). Despite her many cords we have both able to cuddle her, learnt to change her nappy and how to soothe her. She has a nurse with her 24 hours a day and we’ve enjoyed getting to know them too – they do an amazing job for these little ones!

Our precious girl
Our precious girl

Wonderfully, I was encouraged to give breastfeeding a go on Wednesday night which I hadn’t expected at all! But as her oxygen levels were good and she has a strong sucking reflex it was a possibility. Hannah and I both need some practice, but it was such a beautiful experience and one I had prepared not to have for several weeks at least.

Late Thursday morning we were told Hannah had been placed on the surgery list for the day, though it was very unlikely to happen. But, as we’re learning, you never know how a day or couple of hours can pan out in the NICU! Just as we decided to go have lunch news came through that Hannah would be leaving for theatre within the hour. Once we got over the initial shock, preparation started to gather momentum as we helped washed and prepare her body, met the anaesthetist and someone from the surgical team and signed consent forms.

Hannah's bed in the Grace Centre (before her operation)
Hannah’s bed in the Grace Centre (before her operation)

(Before you read on, you might find reading my earlier post about how hearts work and what tricuspid atresia is here helpful.)

The first stage in repairing Hannah’s heart is called a Blalock-Taussig (BT) Shunt. It involves inserting a Gore-Tex tube between an artery near the arm and the aorta to detour blood to the lungs. It’s necessary in babies like Hannah whose right side of the heart has not developed. However it’s only a temporary measure designed to last several months until the baby is able to undergo open heart surgery. To insert the tube surgeons make an incision between two ribs on the right side of the body. I am continually amazed by the knowledge and skill the medical professionals have, and the access we have to such good healthcare in our own city. We have so much to be thankful to God for.

Hannah’s operation went well and she now has a 4mm wide shunt starting just below her collar bone and progressing down to her heart. She came back from the operation sedated with even more tubes for ventilation, feeding and pain management, inserted through her neck, groin and nose. She also had a drain clearing the incision on her side. What a trooper!

As Hannah wakes up over the next few days please pray for a stable recovery. First, Hannah needs to recover from the operation itself and come off ventilation and feeding support. Then the shunt will need to start doing its job taking over from the ductus arteriosus which will naturally close in the next few days (it’s currently being kept open by medication). In order to grow with Hannah the shunt size lets too much blood through at the moment, so she is also on medication to limit the flow until it stabilises.

Overnight and today her progress has been steady, and scans of the shunt and her incision have been positive. She’s slowly coming out of sedation, occasionally showing her displeasure at the prodding and poking with a very cute scrunchy face. The next few days are expected to be fairly quiet as they monitor her and slowly reduce her sedation.

Cuddles on Thursday morning before Hannah’s operation

On reflection I’m thankful that we didn’t have much time to dwell on the surgery before it happened. It meant we both enjoyed long cuddles yesterday morning with Hannah without counting down the minutes. The intensity of my emotions surprised me as we helped prepare her little body and said goodbye as she went into theatre. A mix of feeling fiercely protective of my little girl, while being utterly helpless. Again the nurses and doctors were wonderful and very supportive, and mercifully the couple of hours she was in theatre went quickly. I also found listening to music peaceful, particularly resonating with the words of “I heard the voice of Jesus say”:

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Come unto Me and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down,
Thy head upon My breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary and worn and sad;
I found in Him a resting-place,
And He has made me glad.

Please give thanks for…

  • Hannah’s first days of life and the joy of meeting our daughter
  • My smooth recovery from labour
  • The skill and wisdom of the medical staff looking after Hannah and completing the surgery
  • Hannah’s initial positive recovery from surgery

Please pray for…

  • Hannah’s next couple of days, her continued recovery from surgery and her heart’s transition to reliance on the shunt
  • Continued good sleep and lots of energy for Gus and myself
  • Our trust in Jesus to remain firm no matter how Hannah’s recovery progresses

When I thought, “My foot slips,”
    your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.
When the cares of my heart are many,
    your consolations cheer my soul. 

Psalm 94:18-19


11 thoughts on “Hannah’s BT Shunt Operation

  1. That’s nuts, wow.

    So glad to hear you got to breastfeed so soon–it’s special hey! Must’ve been very intense with her in surgery–glad you could rest in Jesus.

    Hannah’s so tiny and precious! Congratulations! Rest well, we’ll be praying for you!


  2. Hi Sarah,
    Not sure now how I stumbled across your blog but I LOVE reading it. You write so beautifully, so eloquently in what must be a draining time. I love reading how your faith in God through Jesus sustains you both. May God continue to sustain you as you learn how to be parents to gorgeous Hannah especially with her particular needs.
    Blessings to you all.


  3. Dear Sarah & Angus,

    So far so good.

    Pleased to see little Hannah expressing her displeasure … A sign of strength:)))

    With love and a cuddle from us


  4. Hannah is so cute and adorable! 🙂 My husband’s cousin, Eduard, sent us the link to your blog. We will be praying for Hannah’s comfort and speedy recovery, and for strength and energy for you and Angus.

    Love and prayers,
    Bunny and Jerome


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