Operating on tiny hearts is Dr. Redmond Burke’s life’s work. Alia is one of the smallest babies to undergo open-heart surgery at the renowned Heart Institute at Nicklaus Children’s and one of the tiniest in the world to survive and thrive after her complex operation. Alia faced several life-threatening problems when she was born three months early, creating unique new challenges even for this veteran congenital heart surgeon.
“Alia weighed only 2.5 pounds at birth, and her heart was extremely small, the size of a grape, when we performed her surgery,” said Dr. Burke, Director of Cardiovascular Surgery at Nicklaus Children’s. “Thanks to years of our heart team’s experience, and our advanced surgical planning and operating room technology, we were ready to give her the chance she needs for a healthy future,” said Dr. Burke.
When Alia was born on January 21, 2021 at 28 weeks gestation, doctors were unaware of her heart condition. Within days, the tiny preemie was transferred to the cardiac intensive care unit at Nicklaus Children’s where a team of experts began planning for her treatment.
Whenever possible, the clinical team cares for and monitors babies in the unit for weeks and even months prior to surgery, enabling little ones to grow bigger and stronger before undergoing a procedure. However, Alia’s failing heart could not wait. She was hurried into the operating room on February 3, where Dr. Burke re-implanted a microscopic coronary artery, to help her heart function properly. In the days and weeks to follow, Alia recovered in the unit, growing and gaining strength with each passing day.
On April 27, Alia’s parents, Natalia and Eduardo, brought their baby girl home for the first time, with excitement for the future. Dr. Burke expects Alia to thrive and meet developmental and neurological milestones in the years ahead.
“We are so grateful to Dr. Burke and Nicklaus Children’s team for mending Alia’s heart and giving her a lifetime of tomorrows. We are so fortunate to benefit from their amazing care.”