By ROSALIND GRIFFITHS
A LITTLE girl whose survival has been described by the medical profession as a “miracle” is now enjoying life back home in Lerwick.
Eight-year-old Ellie Lynch nearly died when she collapsed one morning in May. Her pulse had stopped but she was brought back to life by the expertise of medical staff at the Gilbert Bain Hospital.
Now her parents want publicly to thank the team who saved Ellie. “A box of chocolates doesn’t seem enough,” her mother Jackie said.
Ellie was born with a congenital heart condition and Jackie and her partner Michael always knew she would have to have surgery when she reached a certain age. The big operation, an open heart by-pass to open a narrow aortic valve, took place during a three-month stay in Yorkhill hospital in Glasgow earlier this year, and everything seemed to be going well.
But two weeks after Ellie and Jackie got home, complications set in. One Saturday morning in May Jackie noticed Ellie looked unwell. Minutes later she collapsed upstairs. Jackie raced to her side and screamed to Michael to order an ambulance. He was told it would take 10 to 15 minutes, and he and Jackie realised they did not have that time. They bundled their daughter and her younger brother Taylor, 5, into the car and arrived at the Gilbert Bain Hospital, thankfully only two minutes drive away from their home in South Lochside.
Once at the casualty department nurses rushed to place Ellie on a table, checking her pulse. They felt nothing and started heart massage. A doctor and anaesthetist appeared from another part of the hospital and took over. It all happened so quickly, Jackie recalled, that the doctor still had his jacket on and had to remove it to carry out the lifesaving surgery. There was not even time to get Ellie to theatre, and the procedure took place in a side room with a team hastily pulled together.
The next 40 minutes were a nightmare, Jackie said, as she tried to take in the “huge shock” of her daughter’s collapse. When it had happened, she said: “I went into overdrive. It’s amazing how something takes over. I was acting in a really robotic organised fashion.” But once in the hospital it was different. “I crouched on the floor in terror because I knew Ellie wasn’t breathing. Those 40 minutes felt like a lifetime. So many thoughts run through your head, the panic runs through you.”
And she was worried about Taylor, too. “I’ll never forget his little face.”
Eventually the medics were able to tell the family that Ellie had pulled through and was stabilised. They explained that her collapse had been what is called a cardiac tamponade, when a chamber of the heart fills up with blood, which compresses the heart and stops it pumping.
Although a very rare condition, the doctor had realised this was happening as a complication of surgery and sliced Ellie across the chest to release the excess blood. His prompt action undoubtedly saved her life.
Ellie was then flown back to Glasgow by air ambulance for a further operation to sort out the problem. The rest of the family flew down too, and were told that if Ellie made it through the night it would be a miracle.
But the “feisty fighter” did survive the night. Several of the doctors in Glasgow (who were hugely impressed with the care she had received in Lerwick, especially that such an unusual condition in a child had been correctly diagnosed) again described Ellie’s survival as a miracle.
An MRI scan revealed that although Ellie had had 30 minutes of impaired circulation, there were no major areas of damage. She had sustained only very slight trauma which doctors were sure would improve over time.
Now, only weeks later, Ellie has a clean bill of health with no more operations in prospect, and is leading a normal life. “She loves swimming, music and dancing and has gone back to gym classes and she’s dying to get back to school,” said Jackie.
And now, she said, the family wanted to thank relatives and friends for their help, Bell’s Brae School for being “fantastic”, and everyone who had supported them. Jackie said: “An old lady I’d never met came up to me and said she’s been praying for my little girl. Everybody’s been wonderful.”