Local cheering squad for miracle baby Sebastian
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | August 3, 2017|
When Sebastian Havill was still in his mother’s womb - about to undergo life-saving heart surgery in Toronto – he had Haliburton County family and friends backing his pre-birth surgery.
Sebastian made the national news media recently as it’s believed he received the planet’s first balloon atrial septoplasty in utero surgery to fix a heart defect just days before he was born.
His mother, Kristine Barry, was born and raised in Haliburton. His father, Christopher Havill, went to Haliburton Highlands Secondary School. The two have family and friends in the area.
Sebastian is now about 10 weeks old and at home in Barrie after a second, this time post-birth surgery, on his tiny heart.
At 20 weeks, the couple found out he had severe complete transposition of the great arteries (TGA). It’s a congenital defect in which the pulmonary artery and aorta are switched. It means the heart can’t properly circulate blood throughout the body. Usually, doctors perform surgery to switch the arteries about a week after birth. But, in Sebastian’s case, there was a further complication. All the walls in his heart were closed. At birth, his blood wouldn’t be oxygenated. He could have suffered brain damage or died.
That’s when doctors, Edgar Jaeggi, Rajiv Chaturvedi and Greg Ryan came up with a plan.
On May 18, using ultrasound, the doctors put a needle into Barry’s uterus and Sebastian’s heart to blow up a tiny balloon to make a hole in his atrial septum. It allowed the blood and oxygen to do their work. In addition to the team of specialists, medical personnel were on standby with an incubator in case they had to perform an emergency C-section on Barry. But that wasn’t required. The successful surgery took just 20 minutes.
Barry said she had faith all along in the medical team she and her husband were working with.
“They were very good at explaining what our options were. The pros and cons. They said they had done other utero procedures in the past that had been successful. But just the vibe from them. They never made me doubt them. They made me feel calm.
“They said it if doesn’t work, we’ll have people there to do an emergency C-section, and have an incubator. They just covered all the bases so that we knew no matter what happened it was going to be well taken care of. It didn’t make sense to stress too much about it and compromise how Sebastian would react to that,” Barry said in a telephone interview from the family home.
“We just knew we’re going to give it a shot, we’re going to give it a try because the alternative just didn’t seem fair to Sebastian, to just completely ignore the in utero procedure.”
Five days later, Barry was induced and about a week later, Sebastian had the open heart surgery to fix the TGA.
There’ll be lots more visits to Sick Kids in the future, but the little boy is expected to live a normal life.
Barry jokes that when he is older, she will get Sebastian to google his name. Up will pop stories in the Toronto Stars, CBC, CTV, Global and the Canadian Press.
But she said the couple didn’t agree to the media coverage to be in the spotlight. They are pretty private people.
She said it was, “solely to make sure that people found out about what amazing things Sick Kids Hospital and Mount Sinai Hospital are doing.”
She added they wanted to put a human face to this medical story.
“It felt like a good way to pay it forward to the doctors. I’ll never be able to pay what they did back fully or properly say thank you”.
“At the time, we didn’t know it was ground-breaking stuff. In hindsight I’m glad. It helped me stay calm through the whole thing. Now we’re hearing things such as ‘this will open doors and change the way of working with this type of heart defect’.”
Sebastian is Sandra Heywood’s grandson.
When asked how she felt about the story and its accompanying media attention, the local woman said, “overwhelmed. Humbled. Thankful. Amazed. I’m so proud of Christopher and Kristine. And Sebastian … what a wee miracle, bundled up into such a little love. So many people were, and still are, sending thoughts and prayers and good vibes. And the doctors? I can’t even describe how grateful I am for them.”
Asked how she feels when she holds her baby boy in her arms, Barry responds, “hard for me to look at him and say I love you without getting choked up … he’s here and he’s thriving.”
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.