Baby girl finally home after surgeons perform life-saving op, having practiced on tiny 3D heart

220222-pippa with surgeon holding 3d print of heart southampton
Lizzie with Pippa and surgeon holding 3D heart. Credit: University Hospital Southampton

A baby girl who had to undergo lifesaving surgery that was so delicate surgeons in Southampton had to make and practice on a 3D model of her heart, has finally been able to go home.

Pippa Fulton was born premature and was diagnosed with life threatening problems in her intestines as well as a complex malformation of her heart and main blood vessels.

Surgeons had attempted complex surgery on the tiny infant when she was just one day old, but despite best efforts the operation couldn’t be completed successfully.

Pippa has spent the first six months of her life in University Hospital Southampton. Credit: University Hospital Southampton

After she reached 5.5kg, discussions about attempting to repair Pippa’s heart began again.

In order to make sure the complex surgery could be done, surgeons decided to print a 3D model of Pippa's heart so they could practice the procedure.

On 27 January, Pippa spent more than seven hours in surgery and the structure and function of Pippa’s heart was successfully repaired.

Mr Viola, lead congenital cardiac surgeon and Dr Trevor Richens, lead interventional paediatric cardiologist said: “In any major surgery like this there is always the risk of serious complications and making the 3D model of the heart gave us the chance to better understand and practice the procedure.

“We are very pleased to see Pippa responding so well and we are delighted she is finally able to be home with mum and dad, so they can begin life together as a family at last.” 

Dr Tara Bharucha explains how the 3D heart helped surgeons save Pippa

Mum Lizzie Fulton, 30, has been by her daughter’s side since she was born on August 6 last year, and has not spent a single night away from the hospital.

She said: “It’s been a very long six months. Pippa has had lots of complications during her stay, from pneumonia to a collapsed lung.

"But she’s fought through and been unbelievably brave, and we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.” 

Pippa with mum Lizzie and dad Nathan. Credit: University Hospital Southampton

Pippa’s dad, Nathan Fulton, 34, said: “Seeing our baby girl taken down for surgery was one of the longest and hardest days of our lives.

"There was this real mix of emotions, from the fear of someone so precious and tiny undergoing open-heart surgery to complete relief that the operation we had been waiting six long months for was finally happening.” 

Pippa left University Hospital Southampton at the weekend and is now home in Whiteley, Hampshire with her mum and dad and their dog Peanut.

Lizzie added: “Nathan and I would like to thank everyone, from the bottom of our hearts, who has cared for Pippa.

"We are so grateful to Mr Viola and Dr Richens and to all of the nurses, health care workers and the staff at Ronald McDonald House. We owe them everything. They have all been so kind, approachable and supportive throughout this whole ordeal.

"Not only have they taken exceptional care of Pippa, but they’ve also taken care of us too. There really aren’t enough words to show our gratitude.” 

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