The parents of a 10-month-old infant in the United Kingdom born with an extremely rare heart tumor plan to bring their son to the U.S. for surgery, they said.
Seven months ago, Michael Labuschagne suffered heart failure in the middle of the night. The parents of what they thought was a perfectly healthy baby boy were in shock as paramedics worked to save their child’s life. He was only 14 weeks old at the time.
"Words cannot begin to describe the pain we felt [at] that moment,” Michael’s mother, Emma Labuschagne, told South West News Service (SWNS), a British news agency.
"We watched our baby breathless, gasping for air while his heart stopped. [At] that moment I did not think Michael would make it through,” she added.
But Michael survived.
Michael, who then was diagnosed with a cardiac fibroma, was placed in a medically induced coma. When he woke, Emma, 27, said the first thing he did was smile at his father, Stuart. The infant was then fitted with a pacemaker.
“It does hold him back. It's as big as the size of the palm of my hand and it has sharp edges,” Emma said of the device. "Putting that inside a baby is quite uncomfortable for them. But he is amazing, you wouldn't know [by] looking at him that he is fighting this.”
The mother of three said she and her husband are raising money to bring their son to Boston Children’s Hospital for surgery, which is expected to cost $147,000.
“The cardiac surgeons at Boston are the best cardiac surgeons in the world and they have done this operation several times,” said Emma. "They are confident that they can drastically improve, or even cure, his condition by resecting the tumor. They want to operate within six months as his heart will be a good size.”
Most heart tumors are non-cancerous. But due to the sensitive location, “even benign tumors can be life-threatening,” the Boston Children’s Hospital states.
“A tumor can interfere with the way the heart works, blocking blood flow to vital organs and causing an abnormal heart rhythm,” it adds.
Fibromas, the type of tumor on Michael’s heart, is the second most common type of cardiac tumors in children. About 14 percent of pediatric heart tumors are fibromas, according to the hospital. These tumors are most often located in the heart’s ventricles — namely and most commonly in the left one — and can obstruct blood flow to the heart, which can cause valvular malfunctions and ultimately lead to heart failure.
Fibromas “are often associated with arrhythmias and ventricular tachycardia,” per the hospital.
Surgery is often recommended to remove the tumor, but in some cases — especially for large or non-removable tumors — a heart transplant may be required, according to Science Direct.
"He's a lovely little baby — it's hard to believe he's going through what he is. He's a miracle,” Emma said. But, she noted, “every day is an unknown until we can get his fibroma removed.”