Dundee mum reveals ‘terrifying’ experience after brave baby Ryleigh born with holes in her heart

A Dundee newborn baby with five holes in her heart has been described as her mum’s “warrior princess”.

Little Ryleigh Stevens was fighting for her life from the moment she was born.

At just three days old, the Douglas youngster was in intensive care with doctors unable to figure out what was wrong with her.

After multiple scans and reviews of images, they discovered Ryleigh had been born with a ventricular septal defect and multiple atrial septal defects.

Little Ryleigh in hospital

Her tiny heart — roughly the size of a walnut — had five holes in it.

Mum Valerie Christie, 38, told the Tele of her daughter’s fightback from the brink — although she admitted she fears for her future because of the condition.

She added: “I didn’t know there was anything wrong with her until she was four days old.

“Her breathing was really fast, her chest was going up and down and she was taken to the special care unit in Ninewells.

“It was the most terrifying experience of my life but I knew that I needed to be there for her.

“I didn’t even have a chance to think about what could happen because I knew I had to be there for my baby — I was all she had.”

Valerie said she got the “shock of her life” when she went to Ryleigh’s bedside at 6am and found the cot empty.

Doctors had taken her to ICU because of complications.

Ryleigh, now 11 weeks old, was then taken to the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow where she underwent a barrage of tests before ultimately having lifesaving surgery and being put into a medically induced coma.

She regained consciousness but the sound of Valerie’s voice agitated her too much and she had to be sedated again.

Mum Valerie with Ryleigh a kiss

She then survived two infections she contracted while in hospital, although she still has some fluid on her lungs.

Against all odds, Ryleigh managed to battle back from the brink and has returned home to Dundee.

Valerie said: “It was the worst experience of my life.

“I don’t think I had prepared for seeing my little baby with all these wires coming out of her. She is a warrior — she is my wee Xena: Warrior Princess.

“I know that this will be a long road.

“She has been fitted with a pacemaker just now. She might have that for her whole life.

“She has today, but what will tomorrow bring? She has been through more than most people go through in their lives.

“She has to go back up to the hospital every month now.

“She is also going to have very big scars because of the operations. Some people were saying that’s a shame but I don’t see it that way.

“Those scars are her war wounds. They are battle scars because she is such a brave wee girl.”

Valerie said she plans to get the same scar tattooed so Ryleigh doesn’t feel self-conscious.

Valerie added that she wants Ryleigh’s story to show the importance of parents paying attention to scans and tests while pregnant.

She said: “I know that their hearts are so small, but they must be able to see something is wrong on the scan pictures.

“I would just say to people who are pregnant that if they have any concerns to make them known.”

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