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At Bambino Gesù, woman born with half a heart delivers twins

Mother with heart defect births twins

Courtesy of Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital

J-P Mauro - published on 02/17/24

The Pope's children's hospital accompanied this young woman from her own birth to the birth of her children, treating her congenital heart defect along the way.

Bambino Gesù Children’s hospital, also known as “The Pope’s Hospital,” is celebrating the successful birth of twins to a woman with an incredibly rare heart defect. It was a special case for the dedicated doctors of Bambino Gesù, who not only delivered the twins safely, but appreciate how their colleagues have also accompanied the twins’ mother for her whole life, treating her for a complex congenital heart disease since her birth. 

The mother of the twins, who remained nameless in a press release from Bambino Gesù, was born with a univentricular heart, meaning her heart was missing a ventricle. In her case, her heart was missing its right ventricle, the path that brings blood to the lungs for oxygenation. It is a very rare birth defect that has only been documented four times worldwide. 

When she was just 4 years old, doctors at Bambino Gesù performed an operation that built an “alternate circulatory system,” called “Fontan,” that bypassed the heart and sent blood to the lungs straight from a large vein called the vena cava. The procedure was not without its risks, but in this case it was a resounding success, allowing the twins’ mother to live her life quite normally and even pursue pregnancy. 

Mother with heart defect births twins

Even as an adult, however, Bambino Gesù continued to accompany her, now through the high risk pregnancy. While Bambino Gesù is a children’s hospital, there are specialists who continue to treat children with heart disease who come of age. The mother of the twins was assisted by a multidisciplinary team called GUCH (Grown Up Congenital Heart), which meticulously managed the pregnancy and planned the birth. 

The twins were born via a C-section, which was decided on in lieu of natural delivery because of the strain and stress that vaginal delivery would inflict on the mother’s heart. The procedure was reportedly completed without complications and the twins were delivered at about 3 pounds each. After 10 days of recovery for both the mother and the twins, who were born a little early at 34 weeks, the family was able to return home without incident. 

The announcement notes that this case has proven that maternity is not out of the question for patients with this incredibly rare heart defect. The mother expressed her thanks to Bambino Gesù for their continuing care: 

“I knew I was taking risks with my special heart, a half heart, but I am very determined and I really wanted to be a mother. In this adventure I was followed step by step by the doctors of Bambino Gesù and the Gemelli Polyclinic. Thanks to them I had a beautiful pregnancy and birth and the birth of my children was an indescribable emotion. I would like to tell women who experience the same situation as me not to be afraid and to rely on specialized centers to make their dream of motherhood come true.”

ChildrenHealth and WellnessMedicineVatican
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