Little Aurora Caroll has had a rough start in life. Born in June 2020, Aurora was diagnosed with a rare type of congenital heart disease during a prenatal scan at 20 weeks at North Shore Private Hospital.
Aurora was born with double outlet right ventricle (DORV) where the pulmonary artery and the aorta — the heart’s two major arteries — both connect to the right ventricle. In a normal heart, the pulmonary artery connects to the right ventricle, and the aorta connects to the left ventricle.
After her birth at five weeks old, Aurora was visibly unwell, was failing to gain weight and was lethargic due to the large hole in her heart. She was admitted to Westmead Children’s Hospital the following week for open heart surgery.
Congenital heart disease is one of the leading causes of death of Australian babies under one, and is one of the most common birth abnormalities in the country.
Parents Ben and Julia of Balgowlah Heights describe handing over their child to the anaesthetist as one of the toughest moments. Their situation was made all the more difficult during the peak of COVID-19 as only one parent was allowed to be there.
“The physical handover was hard to come to terms with and I vividly recall falling in a heap with an empty pram. COVID-19 meant my partner Ben wasn’t able to join me in the ward and had to wait outside.”
Due to the severity of the condition and the stress of open heart surgery, Aurora’s recovery was complicated as the operation was a little too much for her tiny body to handle. She experienced a period on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a type of life support, and spent two weeks in intensive care then another two weeks in the Edgar Stephen Ward at Westmead Children’s hospital.
Every day, eight babies are born with congenital heart disease and sadly, four lives are lost each week. There is no known cure. Congenital heart disease is a complex chronic disease requiring lifelong treatment.
Today, Aurora is a beautiful, happy, and thriving eight-month-old child who continues to do well with her follow up appointments and in everyday life.
“We are so grateful for the care and expertise of Aurora’s medical team at Westmead Children’s Hospital and HeartKids Australia for their unwavering support during this tough time,” said parents Ben and Julia.
“Aurora undergoes regular check ups, with longer intervals now, and she really enjoys taking our dog Gary for a walk along Manly Beach. She’s also starting to crawl and learn her first words.”
During February 2021, the Carroll family are helping HeartKids in the fight against congenital heart disease by encouraging individuals to buy a special $5 heart beads bracelet in support for families affected by CHD.
The bracelets symbolise the beads that many heart kids receive during hospital stays, with each distinctive bead representing a specific challenge, procedure, or treatment that a child with CHD endures.
The bracelets can be purchased directly online at www.sweetheartday.org.au