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'Miracle Baby' Jessica Home For Christmas
A baby born with a rare combination of potentially fatal heart problems has defied the odds to be allowed home for Christmas.
Jessica Muse had open heart surgery within minutes of being born at Newcastle's Freeman Hospital in July and has spent almost all of her life on a high dependency ward.
Her parents, Claire, 31, and Dom, 29, said Jessica had had eight separate operations since then - and that each time they were told she might not survive.
"Up to six weeks, she was sedated most of the time," said Mrs Muse.
"From then on she's had a couple of little hiccups, but it's mainly been ups and she got stronger and stronger until she eventually came off the ventilator at 20 weeks old."
Jessica was diagnosed in the womb at 20 weeks with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a collection of problems with one half of the heart that are fatal unless operated on.
But later doctors discovered she also had a much rarer problem at the top of her heart, which meant major surgery was required as soon as she was born.
Jessica was delivered in one operating theatre as a cardiac team waited in the theatre next door to operate on her heart, which was the size of a walnut.
Consultant paediatric cardiologist Dr Milind Chaudhari said the Freeman is one of only three hospitals in the country capable of providing the multidisciplinary care needed by a baby with such complicated heart problems.
Dr Chaudhari described Jessica's treatment as "a massive effort" involving obstetricians, cardiac surgeons, cardiologists, intensivists, respiratory physicians and gastro-enterologists.
"Jessica was born with a very serious form of hypoplastic left heart syndrome, with intact atrial septum," he said.
"She's a bright, alert infant now and she's gaining weight. She still needs a second and third stage operation, but she's on course for that, which is great."
Jessica will return to hospital for her next operation in January, and although her parents know her heart will never work properly, they are delighted to have her home for a family Christmas.
It is no surprise the couple describe Jessica as their "Christmas miracle".
Gazing down at his daughter, Mr Muse said: "It's amazing to have her home, the time we've been through over the past five or six months, it's been unbelievable.
"We've been living at the Freeman Hospital for five months now, so that's basically become our home. It's just nice to get back to some normality and spend Christmas with my family."