The survival of a five-month-old baby boy from Kiribati named Nawere has been called a “miracle” by Taipei’s Mackay Memorial Hospital after he survived several crises while being treated for an ailment caused by a congenital heart defect.
The infant was diagnosed as being born with transposition of the great arteries by a Mackay medical mission that was in Kiribati in March, when Nawere was less than two months old and so ill that he was on the verge of death.
The medical group decided Nawere had to be transported to Taiwan as soon as possible for treatment if he hoped to survive, Mackay Memorial Hospital International Medical Service Center head Hsu Yung-wei (徐永偉) said on Monday.
“Nawere is a little fighter,” Hsu said, describing the challenging three-day trip from Kiribati to Taiwan, which consisted of a ride on a speed boat and two flights.
Nawere’s condition was not bad on the airplane, but his heartbeat slowed when he was loaded onto an ambulance after arriving in Taiwan, Hsu said, adding that the boy underwent cardiac catheterization upon arrival at the hospital.
However, the boy’s body was too weak for the procedure, forcing the medical team to perform emergency treatment several times and to eventually put him on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine to keep him alive, he said.
The team at one point worried that Nawere might never be able to survive without the machine and feared his brain might have been damaged during treatment, he added.
However, those worries did not materialize, Hsu said, praising Nawere’s will to live as “admirable.”
The boy has since been taken off the machine and is now recovering, Hsu said, adding that he expected the boy to be healthy enough to check out of the hospital in two weeks.
Transposition of the great arteries is caused by “abnormal development of the fetal heart during the first eight weeks of pregnancy, the large vessels that carry blood from the heart to the lungs and to the body are improperly connected,” the Stanford Children’s Health Web site said. “Essentially, the connections in the heart are ‘swapped.’”
Mackay Memorial Hospital has been regularly sending medical teams to Kiribati for 11 years. It has treated 300 patients transferred from the island nation, one of 18 countries that maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
Nearly half of the patients from Kiribati sent to Taiwan had heart disease and required treatment involving surgery or other invasive therapies, Hsu said.
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