Maya loves Dora the Explorer and playing with her older brother, Danveer. Her life, however, has not always been so cheerful.
Months before she was born, Maya’s parents Gary and Karm found out through an ultrasound that their daughter had a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot as well as a cleft palate. As soon as Maya was born, she was taken to the Intensive Care Unit at BC Children’s Hospital.
“Every mother looks forward to the end of the journey of labour and that moment they get to hold their baby in their arms,” says Karm. “I had 30 seconds and then she was whisked away from me. I didn’t hold her again for 10 hours. Even then, it wasn’t the same feeling as we were in the ICU, with little to no privacy.”
Maya underwent open-heart surgery in October 2010 to treat her heart defect – she was only four months old. Shortly after the operation, with her parents at her bedside, Maya suddenly flat-lined and showed no sign of a pulse on the heart monitor. The intensive care doctors and nurses took action immediately. “Watching doctors save a life may be exciting on TV or in the movies, but as a parent, it is unbearable,” says Gary.
Maya’s heart had stopped beating for 22 minutes. Thanks to the expertise of the caregiving team at BC Children’s, Maya’s life was saved. To aid in her recovery, Maya was hooked up to ECMO, a heart and lung machine. After six weeks at BC Children’s, Maya was finally able to return home.
Today Maya still faces developmental challenges. She uses a feeding tube to drink milk and struggles to gain adequate weight. Since her hospital stay she has also been diagnosed with a genetic condition called Cornelia de Lange syndrome, a developmental disorder that affects many parts of her body. As she grows she will still require another heart operation to fix the blood flow between her left and right atria.
Despite these challenges Gary and Karm say words can’t describe the gratitude they have for the hospital’s doctors and nurses. The couple is also thankful for the support of family and friends for giving them a shoulder to cry on, and a much-needed distraction from the hard reality that their daughter was so terribly sick. The Ahuja family is comforted in knowing that whatever medical challenges lay ahead for Maya, they will not have to face them alone. With the support of family, friends and the outstanding caregivers at BC Children’s, Maya will be given the best chance of a bright future.
View Maya's Story