Little Austin Cank saved by emergency heart op – story in the Daily Mail
Austin Cank’s mum caught Coxsackie virus while she was pregnant…
Sitting on his mother’s lap, Austin Cank looks a picture of health.
But Austin, 14 months, almost died – after catching a cold while he was still in his mother’s womb.
A virus, which causes a sore throat and a headache, passed through the placenta and affected his heart.
Doctors were so concerned they offered Austin Cank’s devastated parents Tina and David, 30, an analyst, a termination.
But the couple bravely carried on with the pregnancy.
Cuddling her little boy, Mrs Cank, 31, said: ‘Austin is such a boisterous and happy little child that it is hard to believe now how ill he was.
‘But there were many times we thought he was going to die. It truly is a miracle he’s alive.’
When at 12 weeks pregnant Mrs Cank, a customer services advisor, suffered a terrible headache she wasn’t unduly worried.
She said: ‘I visited my GP the next day for a check up and she reassured me I had nothing more than a common head cold.
“Within a day or two I felt fine and when around a week later a routine scan revealed all was well, I forgot all about it.’
However, when she and her husband, from Leicester who also have daughter Evie, three, went for their 20-week scan, they were shocked to be told there was a problem.
‘My heart sank when the sonographer kept studying the screen and then called the consultant,’ said Mrs Cank, ‘and we were horrified when doctors said one side of Austin’s heart was thickened and enlarged.
‘What was more worrying was doctors had no idea what caused it.’
Doctors immediately carried out an amniocentesis, where fluid surrounding the baby is withdrawn for testing.
After an anxious wait of a week the results showed traces of the Coxsackie B virus which had caused inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis).
Part of a group of viruses – which can cause Hand, Foot and Mouth disease – it gives the sufferer mild flu-like symptoms.
She said: ‘In my case the virus had passed over the placenta and affected Austin’s heart. No one knows why.’
Worse was to come when doctors explained they had no idea if Austin would survive the pregnancy or birth.
‘The prognosis was so bad I offered a termination, but there was no way we could do that. However, as there was no treatment, all doctors could offer otherwise was regular monitoring with a specialist cardiologist.
‘The rest of the pregnancy was extremely difficult. It was heartbreaking to feel Austin kicking and know he might not even survive the birth.’
At 36 weeks Mrs Cank went into labour and after a gruelling 34 hours at Leicester Royal Infirmary hospital gave birth to Austin who weighed 4Ib 12oz.
‘I had one hold before he was whisked into special care,’ she recalls.
After four days the Canks were allowed to bring their son home. ‘It was such a relief because doctors believed he’d pulled through and would be fine.’
But at a check up the following week an ECG revealed the virus had damaged the aorta and he needed immediate surgery to save his life.
Recalls Mrs Cank: ‘At that point I just collapsed. I thought it was just a routine check so David was at work. I rang him in hysterics. I had thought Austin was fine and now his life was once again in the balance.’
Although the operation to widen the thickened aorta and allow more oxygen to reach the heart was a success, the next month was critical.
‘Austin was already tiny and he lost lots of weight,’ recalls Mrs Cank, ‘There were so many times we thought after coming so far, we’d still lose him.’
However, aged seven weeks Austin came home. Says his mum: ‘He still needs check ups but he’s full of beans.’
Coxsackie B is one of a group of viruses, most of which cause only mild illness.
Dr Bryan Beattie, a consultant in Fetal Medicine said: ‘It is very rare it causes any harm to the baby, and most babies born to mums who had it in pregnancy are absolutely fine.’
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