Baby with half a heart defies survival odds through NHS surgeon found on Facebook

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Baby Dorothea Velez is five months old but in her short little life there's been no shortage of medical battles.

Her parents Rob Velez and Zofia Fenrych, from Forest Row in Sussex, were told their unborn daughter had a rare condition, called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, meaning she was missing the left side of her heart.

Despite two surgeries to rewire her veins and arteries to connect her organs, and a 65 minute cardiac arrest where her heart stopped beating, Dorothea is defying all the odds.

She is now thriving having only been given a 5-10% chance of survival.

Baby Dorothea has defied the odds Credit: Family handout

Zofia sayd, "she likes to play, she loves music, we dance with her and she loves people. One of the doctors at the Royal Brompton made the comment that she just observes what is going on."

"She's amazing she's super aware" added Rob, "she's only five months old, she's already trying to speak. She's just the most loving happy girl.

"Everyday we sing happy birthday to her. We're just really proud. They say these tough missions are only given to you if you can handle them. I don't know if I can handle them but I can't express the joy."

Warned of the risks and complications of continuing to give birth, Rob and Zofia were initially told to terminate the pregnancy.

This was simply not an option, and Dorothea's parents decided to continue on what has proven to be a testing journey.

A huge effort to fundraise a mammoth £2.5 million got underway in April with the aim of paying for specialist surgery in Texas, whilst Dorothea was still in the womb.

Rob Velez came across a Facebook post praising the work of Dr Guido Michielon Credit: Family handout

Despite their very best attempts, Rob and Zofia were unsuccessful at fundraising faith and a Facebook post helped Rob, Zofia and Dorothea through.

"Rob heard a voice which told him to look closer", said Zofia who says that he came across a post on the Royal Brompton Facebook page of NHS specialist Dr Guido Michielon where lots of parents were commenting on how the paediatric cardiac surgeon saved many children's lives.

Whereas other surgeons wouldn't agree to the operation to reconstruct Dorothea's vital organ, Dr Michielon agreed to the delicate procedure with her aorta less than a millimetre in size and her body weighing three kilograms.

Dr Guido Michielon said, "There is a general rule of thumb in surgery whereby an operation carrying a risk of more than 50% should not be performed.

"People say this is the flipping of the coin and this is not what it should be.

Baby Dorothea after surgery Credit: Family handout

"Anything above 30% is considered extremely high risk with survival rates here around 10%.

"Being honest, I was prepared for the unsuccessful outcome but I put all my energies into putting the number the other way round.

"It's amazing feeling for the team of 50 people who contributed to the success of this outcome.

"Not every day was a sunny day but we've got the objective done. Mission complete."

Zofia says the last year has been one rollercoaster of emotions,

"This is an experience that brought so much into our lives. It's been really tough, and I'm really grateful to be where we are right now.

"But I think we are just richer through it with something that that has brought us to to a level of existence that we wouldn't have touched otherwise. And she is just so strong."

"Money can't bring this joy. Success can't bring this joy. But fighting for your child's life and being able to bring her home can. I've never experienced anything like it in my life" said Rob.

Dorothea will require a further operation but the incredibly encouraging signs provide motivation for her family who, when she is released from hospital, will be able to spend their first Christmas at home with each other.