Toddler Thrives after Life-Saving Heart Surgery at 5 Months Old

Laila Sparrow

At birth, Laila appeared to be a healthy baby girl, but things changed drastically at her two-week doctor’s visit.

Laila’s pediatrician immediately referred his tiny patient to a pediatric cardiologist. Further testing concluded that she had a ventricular septal defect (VSD) – a large hole between the lower chambers of her heart. With this condition, instead of all the blood being pumped from the left side of the heart to the body, the VSD allows blood to pass from the left to the right side of the heart and back to the lungs, causing the heart to work unnecessarily harder.

Laila was prescribed seven doses of three different medications each day, along with a high-calorie nutrition formula to help her gain weight. “An infant with such a VSD needs 50 to 60 percent more nutrition because the demand of their bodies is so high,” says Rajiv Verma, MD, FACC, FSCAI, Director, Children’s Heart Center, Children’s Hospital of New Jersey (CHoNJ) at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, an RWJBarnabas Health facility.

“We always hoped that the hole (VSD) may shrink in size on its own, but in Laila’s case the hole was too large,” says Dr. Verma.

After discussions with the cardiologist and heart surgeon, Laila’s parents, Hilburn and Patsy, of Plainfield, agreed that heart surgery was necessary to save Laila’s life.

Sunil Malhotra, MD, Director, Pediatric and Adult Congenital Cardiac Surgery at the CHoNJ, performed successful open-heart surgery on 5-month-old Laila and closed the large hole her heart.

Hilburn Sparrow, Laila’s father, describes his experience with the entire hospital staff as phenomenal. “They really cared about my daughter’s wellbeing and went above and beyond.”

Laila’s recovery was outstanding. Six months post-surgery, she no longer needed medications, and 14 months post-surgery, she was up to the 51st percentile in weight.

Today, Laila is a busy, thriving 3-year-old who enjoys going to school and playing with her older brothers.