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The parents of a seven-year-old girl whose failing artery was replaced by a vein from a cow have told how surgeons might need to replace it with another bovine transplant.
Hannah May Carroll from Athlone was born with a major defect called Pulmonary Artresia which means the valve that lets blood out of the heart to the lungs did not work.
Her life was saved when she was just two years old as a result of a complex nine-hour operation which saw doctors stop her heart and replace her aorta with a vein from a cow.
But the vein, which is hooked up to her five arteries, has a lifespan of around six years meaning the brave youngster might have to go under the knife again.
Her dad Robert told the Irish Sunday Mirror: “She’s had two open-heart surgeries and they’ve done a full correction now.
“Her pulmonary arteries kept narrowing so she had to get stints and balloons in four times. Because it’s a cow’s vein and not man-made it won’t do her for her lifetime.
“They are hoping it will last another year or two, but she might have to have another one put in. Then when she’s a bit older she can have a human one which will not need replacing.”
Hannah May’s life-threatening condition, which was diagnosed two months after she was born, became more worrying when it was discovered she also had a large hole in her heart.
When her parents Robert and Laura first brought her to hospital they were told if it had been 20 years earlier there was nothing that could have been done to save her.
But thanks to advances in medical science surgeons suggested taking a vein from a cow – and Robert and Laura were more than a little taken aback by it.
Robert admitted: “When they told us at first we thought they were messing and we just laughed at them. It’s a fairly rare procedure and we don’t know of anyone else who’s had it.”
To date Hannah May has had six heart operations but she doesn’t let it slow her down and is a keen Irish dancer and a doting big sister to her four-year-old brother Ryan.
She has always dreamed of becoming a princess for the day and this weekend that wish will come true as Hannah May gets to open the new fairy trail at Malahide Castle.
Thanks to the Share a Dream Foundation and local businesses in the north Dublin village the entire family will travel to Dublin to see Hannah May’s wish come true.
Dad Robert said: “She got a Share a Dream award a few years back but she was too sick at the time for them to do anything.
“It’s still the same dream as she had then – to be a princess. She’s always playing dress up and this time it will be for real. We can’t wait to see her on her big day.”