A baby boy born with his heart outside his chest cavity will now be able to live a normal life following a life-saving surgery at Health City Cayman Islands.

Ten-month-old Addylson Jeremias Ruiz Lopez of Nicaragua suffered from an extremely rare and potentially fatal defect in his abdominal wall. His heart had moved out of the chest cavity into the abdomen, putting the baby at risk of death from even a push or fall.

Health City’s chief cardiac surgeon Dr. Binoy Chattuparambil said there are only 200 reported cases of the condition worldwide. He had seen a similar case only once before in India, but felt confident he would be able to save Jeremias.

“When the child was born, the parents noticed there was a pulsating swelling in the upper abdomen,” Dr. Chattuparambil said.

“This child’s heart was just beneath the skin. … Any trauma, actually even if you press hard, that can kill the baby. So this is a very rare anomaly.”

Jeremias traveled to Cayman with his parents in early April thanks to support from Have a Heart Cayman Islands and Bless Back Worldwide.

A six-hour surgery led by Dr. Chattuparambil required an extensive team of specialists, including plastic surgeon Javier Mendoza, a pediatric cardiologist, anesthesiologists, an intensive care team, physiotherapists and a radiologist.

“We removed the outpouching of the heart and repositioned the heart into the normal location with space constraints and reconstruction of the defects of the pericardium, diaphragm, chest and abdominal wall,” Dr. Chattuparambil said after the operation.

Addylson Alberto Ruiz and Marlen Adelina Lopez Bermudez were able to bring their son to Health City with the support of Have a Heart Cayman Islands and Bless Back Worldwide. – Photo: Health City Cayman Islands

The baby’s mother, Marlen Adelina Lopez Bermudez, said she had been nervous about coming to Cayman, where she does not have family and friends to offer support. The success of the surgery, however, has changed her son’s life.

Before the operation, she was afraid to let Jeremias crawl and move around. He is now able to play like other babies.

“It’s very hard to have a child in this condition, especially when you don’t have the means to pay for this kind of surgery. So it’s very important to support these kinds of foundations so that other children can get help,” she said.

The baby’s father, Addylson Alberto Ruiz, said the family would not have known what to do without the help offered at Health City.

Jeremias and his parents are now back in Nicaragua where he is recovering well. Post-operative echocardiograms show that he is healthy.

“His mother sent me a video last week of the child at home playing. He’s like any other normal child,” Dr. Chattuparambil said. “The child will have a normal life now.”

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