TORONTO – A seven month old toddler, born with a rare and deadly condition, is awaiting surgery after she was flown from South Africa to Toronto.
Aurora was born in South Africa where her Canadian mother and South African father live.
She was born with her intestines on the outside of her body. A blood clot caused further complications for the baby. She needed a bowel transplant.
“When she was born, the surgeon and the paediatrician in South Africa basically told us that we just had to watch her die,” her mother Nicole Arnt, originally from the Okanagan, said.
There weren’t any doctors in South Africa that could do the surgery and so Arnt looked to Canada to get her baby treatment. She reached out to doctors at Sick Kids hospital in Toronto – one of two hospitals in Canada that does the surgery needed.
“I am Canadian, I will find a way to get her home because I know we can fix this in Canada,” Arnt said.
At the time, Arnt who’s originally from Kelowna, B.C., was living in South Africa. She reached out to doctors at Sick Kids Hospital – one of only two hospitals in Canada that does bowel transplants.
And with much determination and fundraising dollars from friends and family, Arnt brought her daughter home. Aurora needed a medical escort so she had to travel via air ambulance or on a commercial flight with a medical team accompanying her.
She also started a fundraising effort to raise the approximately $100,000 needed to transport the family, the baby and a nurse to Canada.
She ultimately returned to Canada via air ambulance – that cost her family $150,000.
Sick Kids hospital tries to heal the gut first in hopes that a transplant will no longer be needed following the rehabilitation. But Aurora also developed a blood clot which complicated her case. Dr. Paul Wales, a paediatric surgeon at Sick Kids Hospital, said the blood clot coupled with liver dysfunction required repeat surgery and re-section of the intestine.
A full-term baby is born with about 170 centimetres of small intestine and about 60 centimetres of large intestine. The repeat surgeries left her with less of the important organ to work with.
“She was left very short, the way she was presented to us it was just about seven or eight centimetres of small intestine at the time after all the surgery,” he said. “So that’s profoundly short.”
Wales said without transplant, Aurora could be dependent on an IV for years if not her entire life. So the hospital placed her name on a transplant list for a small intestine, liver and partial pancreas, Arnt said.
“Other than the transplant which is ultimately what she needs, she is getting everything she needs to grow and thrive from the team here,” she said. “I mean it’s a comprehensive team that she has dedicated to her here.”