Now little Elenah doesn’t miss a beat!

Vital pacemaker surgery

It’s hard to put on a brave face after heart surgery, but Elenah is giving it her best shot.

She is recovering after an adult-sized pacemaker was implanted to stop her heart “pausing” many times a day.

But the determined four-year-old had only one thing on her mind moments after waking from surgery, mum Michelle Teklenburg said.

“She woke up in the ICU and the first thing out of her mouth was ‘I want to go to the playground’,” said Ms Teklenburg, of Croydon.

“And once she was out of the bed, that was it. She wouldn’t get back in that bed under any circumstances. She’s doing great.”

At six months of age, Elenah began having what her parents thought were absence seizures when she would blank out or flop over.

“Unfortunately, being the youngest of seven, we didn’t worry too much about it until about the beginning of last year when I mentioned it to a doctor,” Ms Teklenburg said.

Doctors at the Royal Children’s Hospital soon discovered Elenah was born with congenital heart block. “Cardiology put her in a Holter monitor and realised her heart pauses for up to five seconds numerous times a day,” Ms Teklenburg said.

“Her longest pause was 6.7 seconds, which doesn’t sound like much, but as the doctor said to us, that can be like 12 heartbeats for a child her age.”

It was nerve-racking when RCH surgeons had to cut open Elenah’s chest to implant the pacemaker .

“They call it closed-heart surgery, but they’ve still got to cut open the breastbone because they sew it to the outside of the heart,” Ms Teklenburg said.

RCH cardiology clinical nurse consultant Vanessa Connell said Elenah needed the pacemaker because she had a slow heart rate most of the time.

“Especially sometimes when she slept, she had really long pauses, and they were the concerning part,” she said.

“The pacemaker makes sure that when her heart rate gets lower than a certain rate that we’ve set the pacemaker, the pacemaker then paces.”

By maintaining a minimum rate, the pacemaker has stopped Elenah’s heart pauses.

Ms Connell said Elenah was “doing really, really well”.

“They don’t make children’s pacemakers. It’s an adult-sized box in a child’s body,” she said.

“The surgeons are amazing at finding an area to put them in. They put them in their belly.

“And then the leads are attached to the outside of their heart. It’s a lot.

“It’ll be interesting to see in six months what Elenah’s like, because she’s feisty on a slower heart rate, so I wonder what she’ll be like with more energy.”

Written by Jen Kelly
Images by David Caird
Published in the Herald Sun March 25th 2024

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