Chantelle developed a major problem with her oesophagus, and needed an amazing operation at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) using keyhole surgery. Mum, Maria, talks about their time at the hospital and the difference the surgery has made. 

One day in April 2011, when Chantelle was three-and-a-half years old, she woke up sick. This lasted for a week, so Chantelle was rushed to the local hospital with dehydration where she was kept on a drip for two weeks and eventually fitted with a naso-gastric (NG) tube so she could be fed a liquid diet.

Chantelle went home with the tube fitted, but her mum and dad struggled to get the tube down, so they soon returned to hospital. Local doctors couldn’t get to the bottom of Chantelle’s illness, and this was one of the hardest things for Maria: “I couldn’t find anywhere to get any information about it.”

Coming to GOSH

In September, Chantelle was finally referred to GOSH. Maria says: “It was supposed to be straight in, straight out, but when they put a scope down, that all changed. They showed us a picture of what I can only describe as blood blisters on the inside of Chantelle’s oesophagus.”

Doctors hadn’t even been able to get a neonatal camera past the obstruction to see how long it was. “We now know that the damage was all the way down the bottom third,” says Maria.

The hospital made several attempts to widen Chantelle’s foodpipe, including an oesophageal dilatation (inflating a balloon in the oesophagus to try to widen it) and a stent (a metal mesh cage that is gradually expanded), but it continued to close up. “There was no other choice but to operate,” says Maria.

Keyhole surgery

In June 2012, Chantelle had an operation in which the oesophagus was removed from up near the collarbone down to the stomach. The stomach was then stretched up like a tube to reach the collarbone, moving the stomach compartment up into Chantelle’s chest. The whole procedure was done by keyhole surgery.

“It baffles you when they tell you they’re going to do that!” says Maria. After the 10-hour operation, Chantelle’s parents spoke to Paediatric Surgeon Joe Curry. “He had a big smile on his face, so we knew it was okay.”

A full recovery

“Chantelle is still quite pale but she has come a long way,” says Maria. “Most of the time, she can eat whatever she wants. She has no idea what she went through – she just knows she’s got her scars and thinks she’s got a new belly!”

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