Media urged to respect Louw family

Monday, January 18, 2010

Soweto - Health officials on Monday urged the media to respect the family of 10-day-old Ashleigh Louw, who was born with part of her heart outside her chest.

A day after doctors at Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital completed surgery on baby Ashley, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, who visited the hospital called for calm "and a little respect" for the Louw family after the baby's condition had been described as very critical but stable.

"All the doctors need now is space to do what they need to do to help the baby without the ongoing media attention... it has put so much pressure and strain on them," said Motsoaledi, who was accompanied by Social Development Minister Edna Molewa and other senior provincial government officials.

Professor Sthembiso Velaphi explained to journalists that Ashley's condition was a rare one and that it only occurred once in every 200 000 births.

"A major concern for us was not the fact that she was born with part of her heart outside her chest but the abnormalities inside the heart," said Velaphi.

He said due to the high mortality rate associated with the condition, it was difficult to speculate on the little girl's future or when she is likely to come out of the intensive care unit.

Velaphi said part of the challenge was that blood was not flowing as it should. "That is just one of the major concerns we have, but the baby has been seen by one of the best cardiologists in the country and she is in the right hands."

Ashleigh was born at the Soweto hospital with part of her heart outside her chest covered only by a thin layer of skin.

Doctors will treat her condition step by step and they will only attend to the abnormalities inside her heart only when she is about three months old. "Important is that the baby receives treatment in several stages to see her through adulthood," said Dr Antoinette Cilliers, who performed the operation on the child.