Every parent’s worst nightmare: Breast cancer survivor, 39, reveals why she went ahead with her pregnancy after being told her baby would be born with half a heart
- Larissa and Nathan Brown welcomed little Georgia into the world in 2021
- After a C-section the newborn was whisked away to be put on medication
- Precious Georgia was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome
- This affects normal blood flow as the left side of the organ is inexistent
- Since then Georgia has had two major open-heart surgeries and needs a third
- After spending 169 days in hospital she was finally able to be taken home
During her second pregnancy, mum and breast cancer survivor Larissa Brown was told her baby had a ‘fatal condition’ and was encouraged by doctors to terminate.
The 39-year-old from Townsville, Queensland, considered herself lucky to be able to have children after enduring both cancer and endometriosis treatments in her late-20s.
Against the odds Larissa and husband Nathan Brown welcomed Emilia into the world in 2017 then Georgia in 2021.
But little Georgia was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome – a rare and complex defect that affects regular blood flow – which has been a rollercoaster of a battle for the entire family.
‘I gave birth, gave her a kiss then they whisked her away before I had a chance to hold her,’ Larissa told FEMAIL.
Australian mum Larissa Brown (pictured, left) was told by doctors to terminate her second pregnancy as her baby Georgia (pictured, right) has a ‘fatal heart condition’
The 39-year-old mum from Townsville, Queensland, and husband Nathan considered themselves lucky to have children as Larissa survived breast cancer at just 27 and also suffers from endometriosis
Unfortunately little Georgia was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome – a rare and complex defect that affects regular blood flow – which has been a roller coaster of a battle for the entire family
At the 20-week pregnancy scan the couple were given the devastating news and Georgia was officially diagnosed with the fatal condition.
‘It was pure heartbreak,’ Larissa said, adding: ‘I took a week off work and just cried.
‘They ran us through the three heart surgeries she would need to survive and we had so many termination discussions – which I would never wish upon my worst enemy,’ she said.
At the time doctors said it was extremely likely Georgia would have learning issues, mental delays, a shorter life expectancy and an overall poor quality of life.
‘We didn’t have it in our hearts to terminate the pregnancy – and we felt like the worst people in the world for choosing to proceed, but we couldn’t give up on her,’ she said.
Unfortunately there are no known causes for her rare and fatal condition.
Earlier in life Larissa survived breast cancer at just 27 and also suffers from endometriosis.
The treatment used to combat both diseases meant she would likely struggle to conceive children – or never have a baby at all.
Larissa and Nathan didn’t lose hope and moved to Sydney to discuss possible IVF treatments.
To their surprise, Larissa managed to conceive naturally and gave birth to their first daughter Emilia, now three.
A couple years on, the pair started considering having another baby to expand their family through IVF once more – but due to Larissa’s issues with endometriosis she was considered ‘high risk’ and the specialist refused her.
‘My gynaecologist, who’s been treating my endo for 15 years, suggested a “gentle clean up” surgery and said: “This will be your best chance at having another baby”,’ Larissa recalled.
‘It was a huge surgery and recovery, but I fell pregnant again naturally – I couldn’t believe it, we were so happy.’
At 36 weeks into the pregnancy the couple decided to give Georgia the best chance at survived and moved from Townsville to Brisbane to be close to Queensland Children’s Hospital
At 36 weeks into the pregnancy the couple decided to give Georgia the best chance at survived and moved from Townsville to Brisbane to be close to Queensland Children’s Hospital.
By 38 weeks doctors made the decision to give Larissa a C-section where she has a huge medical team on standby.
Doctors had to act quickly after delivering the baby and had a short timeframe of 30 minutes to one hour to provide Georgia with a specific medication – sadly leaving no time for mum and baby to interact during the first few moments.
At just six days old precious Georgia had open heart surgery, which lasted for a staggering 10 hours due to complications.
It was a long road after the surgery and during the recovery the newborn experienced a collapsed lung.
‘She looked really puffy and was in a bad way, but then she started recovering beautifully, then out of nowhere she needed more oxygen,’ Larissa said.
‘Doctors had no idea what was wrong with her, they ran all the tests and gave her medication but she gradually became worse.’
At just six days old precious Georgia had open heart surgery, which lasted for a staggering 10 hours due to complications
After having a CT scan the cardiologist called Larissa to deliver some break-through news. The doctor discovered Georgia was over-circulating and her oxygen levels were dangerously low, which also meant she qualified to have the next heart surgery
After having a CT scan the cardiologist called Larissa to deliver some break-through news.
‘He said to me: “I finally understand Georgia’s heart”,’ she recalled.
The doctor discovered Georgia was over-circulating and her oxygen levels were dangerously low, which also meant she qualified to have the next heart surgery.
‘It was such a relief,’ Larissa said.
A couple days on Georgia was preparing for the surgery but unfortunately doctors found an infection she needed to recover from first.
Antibiotics helped kill the infection and the baby was once again ready for the five-hour surgery.
Thankfully the procedure was ‘simple’, and doctors admitted afterwards to Larissa they too were worried about her.
After spending 169 days inside a hospital, the family was finally able to take Georgia home for the first time
After spending 169 days inside a hospital, the family was finally able to take Georgia home for the first time.
‘I was both terrified and excited, because in hospital if we’re concerned about anything we could just hit a buzzer and a nurse would come. Now it’s all on me,’ Larissa said.
Beautiful little Georgia has been thriving at home, despite catching rhinovirus twice and having Covid.
‘We’re 110 per cent grateful and are so lucky to be able to bring her home. She has a lot of catching up to do with her development but she’s getting there,’ Larissa said.
Now being 11 months old, Larissa described Georgia as the ‘cheekiest little baby’ who always smiles, waves at people and knows when she’s done something wrong.
‘She’s an incredible baby and is always draws everyone in,’ she said.
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