At the 20th week of May's pregnancy, her and her partner, Thiha, arrived for a routine scan at their nearby hospital, West Middlesex Hospital. They were eagerly anticipating discovering the gender of their firstborn. Their initial excitement was quickly overwhelmed by a whirlwind of emotions when they discovered their baby was not well, although they weren't provided with many details.

May was referred to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital the same day. They explained after an ultrasound that Zuri, May’s baby, had CPAM, a cyst in her right lung. Unfortunately, Zuri was also beginning to develop fluid build-up in her tummy, which is known as hydrops.

 A staff member at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital said: ‘We need to do something about it to give the baby a chance.’ Two shunts were implanted via keyhole surgery performed on May to keep Zuri alive until full term.

 The CPAM was a big tumour in the right lung, pushing the left lung and the heart out towards the very left, and the hospital was worried that Zuri would have no capacity to breathe. The tumour had pushed her heart to the rib area as the right lung was so big.

A last chance of survival life support

At the 30-week stage of the pregnancy, May and Thiha met a team of consultants from Royal Brompton and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, including Dr Claire Hogg, a paediatric respiratory consultant. The consultants explained the options, including ECMO (a last chance of survival life support), and any procedures Zuri would need post birth. The consultants set the expectations and hopes for when Zuri was born.

May and Thiha leaned on each other for strength during this trying time, focusing on the impending birth of their first child. They resolved to navigate the uncertain path ahead step by step. Their expectations were tempered with the sobering awareness that Zuri might not survive. However, the collective efforts of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, Children Acute Transport Service (CATS), Royal Brompton Hospital’s Dr Hogg, and the medical team left them reassured and prepared.

On the 4th of July, May and Thiha arrived at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital for the anticipated delivery. Zuri entered the world through an elective C-section, arriving at 12:09pm.

The whirlwind of events surrounding Zuri's birth left no time for the tender embrace of a first hug before the baby had to be intubated; having a tube inserted through her mouth or nose and down her windpipe to help her breathe. May and Thiha were thrust into a world of uncertainty when they received word at 7pm that a CAT'S ambulance was en route to transport Zuri to Royal Brompton Hospital. Because Zuri was so sick, it took a long time to stabilise her and so they arrived at Royal Brompton at 1:30am, their hearts heavy with worry.

On the second day of Zuri's life, she was put into ECMO in the morning and at 3pm, she was swiftly taken for a CT scan, followed immediately by surgery. The clock ticked on, and by 7pm, May and Thiha received the news that the cyst, which turned out to be cancer, had been removed and surgery was a success. 

After Zuri was taken off ECMO, it took some time for her to stabilise and she remained on a ventilator for over a month, as it was crucial for her to gain strength. During this time, she managed to put on approximately 3.5kg in weight, demonstrating her remarkable progress.

Zuri's heart had been pushed towards her ribcage due to the size of the CPAM. When the tumour was surgically removed, there was an unexpected complication: one of the pulmonary arteries became kinked, raising concerns about potential irregular blood distribution. Both the medical team and Zuri's parents were determined to avoid having her go through another procedure, if possible. Instead, they opted for a gamma camera scan, a less risky and less complicated alternative to an MRI, which also eliminated the need for an invasive cardiac catheter. 

The gamma camera identified Zuri was naturally healing, and that she was not subject to irregular blood distribution. The news of Zuri's natural healing brought immense relief to her parents. The gamma camera revealed that the blood distribution in her body was functioning, further solidifying their hopes for her recovery. Being able to breathe independently marked a significant milestone for Zuri. Her nasal cannulaes, used to provide a high flow of air, had also been removed. However, the medical team continued to closely monitor Zuri’s lung's capacity to effectively distribute oxygen.

This scan was a beacon of hope in our journey, sparing our child from yet another surgery and giving us the peace of mind that she is doing well.  

Despite the progress, Zuri remained at Royal Brompton Hospital as she required ongoing physiotherapy. Her two-month-long confinement to the bed and her earlier reliance on ECMO had made it essential for her to regain her strength and mobility. 

Zuri's parents, filled with hope and determination, embarked on a challenging journey alongside their daughter. They took each day as it came, fully aware that healing and progress required patience and resilience.

You can help patients like Zuri, by supporting our Royal Brompton Gamma Camera appeal. Gamma cameras provide clinicians with very high-quality images to inform a patient’s treatment. A gamma camera was able to show May and Thiha that Zuri was naturally healing, meaning that she didn’t need another invasive procedure.

Help bring the clarity of high-quality imaging to more patients by donating to this appeal now.