HEALTH: Baby Piper is ready to take on the world following heart surgery 

Top of page picture: Royal Hospital for Children

Baby Piper is ready to take on the world following heart surgery 

In July 2023, at just eight weeks old, Piper Faulds had heart surgery in the Royal Hospital for Children, Glasgow. Less than three months later, she is at home laughing, feeding, and keeping her parents busy. Her cheeky smile says it all!

Piper’s journey at the hospital started in June 2023 after her parents, Gemma Smith, and Conor Faulds, flagged some concerns to their GP at Piper’s six-week check-up.

“At just a few weeks old, Piper wasn’t gaining weight at the rate that we expected. She was breastfed at first, but we switched her over to formula as we assumed that she wasn’t getting the volume of milk that she needed from me. It was also apparent to us that she was having challenges breathing with visible tightness in her chest and ‘tucking’ under her chin,” said Gemma.

It was at this appointment that Piper’s GP listened to her chest and heard a murmur. Sharing Gemma and Conor’s concern, he immediately referred them to hospital where Piper had a cardiac consult. After testing, it was determined that Piper had three holes in her heart.

It was also revealed that Piper’s issue gaining weight had been nothing to do with what milk she was consuming. Too much oxygen had been going to her lungs due to the holes in her heart and her body was working so hard to breathe that it was burning every calorie that she was taking in to do so.

“After we had our initial hospital visit, we were able to return home while we waited on a cardiology appointment to make an action plan. We purchased a sock for Piper that monitored her breathing while she slept. This was triggered a few times when Piper was having breathing challenges and we would visit the hospital but, every time we got there, it had resolved. Then, one night when we arrived at the hospital, Piper had an extreme episode of struggling to breathe. We were admitted immediately and due to Piper’s episodes becoming closer together, her surgery was brought forward,” said Gemma.

Ten days later, Piper had her surgery to repair the holes in her heart. She spent seven days in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit to recover before heading home with Gemma and Conor.

“After surgery, we had a few wobbles with her heart rhythm and digestive system playing up but eventually we got back to Ward 1E. Our recovery there gave us that little bit of independence with our daughter again, alongside the support of the nurses there. We could never have done it without them. They saved us and our daughter and I could not speak more highly of the staff in this department. They deserve a medal. For them they were only doing their job but to us it was everything

“Now that we’re home, we can finally start to live the life that parents do with their newborn. We’re finally starting to relax into life with Piper and we’re enjoy spending time with her. She is also a huge hit with her older brothers too,” said Gemma.

Mandy Meechan, Chief Nurse Paediatrics at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, explained that care goes further than the child when they’re at the Royal Hospital for Children.

“Being there for your child when they’re having heart surgery can be a terrifying experience and this is why our support extends to the families that we have in our care. Piper and her parents have been incredibly strong and brave, and we thank them for their kind words. We’re delighted to hear that they’re settling into life at home and look forward to future updates,” said Mandy.

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