Rosie’s parents, from south London, say their daughter was given a ‘death sentence’ with a deteriorating heart condition – but a doctor helped her make a miraculous recovery
Image: Gemma Nesbitt)
A family have praised the work of doctors after their 10-year-old daughter challenged the odds and went from “collapsing 100 times a day” to leading a normal, active life.
Rosie Nesbitt, 10, had a heart condition before she was born after it was identified on an ultrasound scan, MyLondon reports.
She was just 10 days old when she had open-heart surgery at Evelina London to repair problems with some of her heart’s major blood vessels, performed by Professor John Simpson.
After seven years of leading an active life, Rosie’s family moved to Valencia in Spain, for what they intended would be a permanent move.
But a year in, aged eight, it became apparent Rosie was rapidly deteriorating.
Mum Gemma, 42, told MyLondon: “She would just fall to the ground – because her saturation levels were dropping so low (the percentage of oxygen in her blood).
“She was collapsing about 100 times a day. It was like she was having a stroke. She would lose the ability to control her facial expression and her speech would be slurred.
“She would lose all ability to move her hands and arms. It would happen very quickly and then recover very quickly.
“She couldn’t walk up stairs. She couldn’t do any strenuous activity.
“Spanish doctors couldn’t get to the bottom of it. She was given a death sentence essentially.”
Rosie’s heart condition was so complex that “you can’t even find information on it even if you Google it”, her mum said.
Gemma and Darren, Rosie’s dad, only had conversational level Spanish, which made it harder to communicate with Spanish doctors, which contributed to their decision to move back to the UK.
Rosie’s parents had an appointment with Rosie’s doctor in Spain on a Friday and by the next Wednesday the family had packed their bags and moved back to the UK and back to their original doctor, Professor John Simpson, in a bid to save Rosie’s life.
“When we got back to the UK, doctors at Evelina said her blood oxygen levels were so low they were surprised she was even awake,” Gemma added.
Finally, after months of tests, Rosie underwent hours-long heart-surgery in June 2020, at the height of the pandemic – and ended up making a dramatic recovery.
“She’s fantastic right now. Where when she was younger she couldn’t go to her friends’ trampoline parties without throwing up in the car, she is now part of the school running club.”
Gemma recalls with clarity a “stand-out” memory of watching her daughter: “Within six weeks of her surgery, I saw her running around Greenwich park with her sister and she wasn’t getting even a little bit out of breath. I said to my husband, ‘Do we need to be more careful?’ Before she couldn’t walk and now she is running around.It was really freaky, like I didn’t quite believe it.
“Doctor Simpson has been an integral part of our lives. He gave her surgery during the height of the pandemic and we are forever indebted.”
The family benefited from a new virtual reality technology for heart surgery offered by Evelina Hospital, part of guys and St. Thomas’ NHS Trust.
Thanks to funding from Evelina London Children’s Charity and British Heart Foundation (BHF), virtual reality technology can now bring together scans that are routinely used to plan heart surgery to create a three-dimensional, digital image of the heart.
This new technology could shorten operating times and reduce the need for multiple surgeries, leading to better outcomes and experiences for patients and their families.
Professor John Simpson, Rosie’s Doctor and lead researcher for the technology said: “Procedures to repair the heart’s anatomy can be complex, and surgeons don’t like surprises.
“Each patient’s condition has individual characteristics to their heart.
“Our technology will allow surgeons to plan and practice these procedures, and we’re currently applying for approval for it to be used in this way.
“We think that this technology could also be used outside of congenital heart disease surgeries, to plan any procedure which aims to repair a structural problem within the heart, such as valve surgery in an adult patient.”
Dad Darren added: “Anything that can give surgeons more information going into an operation, or that could shorten the time spent operating, would be a major help.
“This technology could bring real comfort and reassurance to families like ours. Rosie is already a big fan of virtual reality and she thinks it would be so cool to see her own heart!”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.