Mum undergoes heart surgery while giving birth

 Photo: Carolinas HealthCare System

Danielle Gaither had just a one per cent chance of survival after undergoing open-heart surgery at the same time her child was delivered by caesarean section.

And 111 days later, the North Carolina woman finally held her son for the first time after his dramatic birth.

Doctors told her she was safe to get pregnant, with a pre-existing heart condition called Marfan Syndrome, but at 39 weeks pregnant she was taken to the emergency room with severe chest pains.

It was discovered she was experiencing an aortic dissection. The main artery pumping blood into her heart broke, cutting off supply to her organs and her unborn baby.

She was rushed into surgery and doctors performed both open-heart surgery and a c-section simultaneously – in a desperate bid to save her life and that of her unborn baby. The operation to save her life took six hours and 20 doctors.

"Danielle's body was shutting down, and we knew we had to work together to save two lives," Dr Jeko Madjarov, the lead cardiothoracic surgeon told Daily Mail Online.

"The only way to save Danielle and her son was to perform open-heart surgery and deliver Danielle's son essentially at the same time.

"These surgeries are conventionally performed separately, but we knew there wasn't enough time. We were also confident that we were going to be successful. So, four teams worked together to save two lives."


Her son, KV, was born safely but had to spend a few days in the neonatal unit to recover from a lack of oxygen.

Danielle had a long road to recovery. She was not allowed to see her son until she was stable.

"Our care team recommended that is was safest for the mother's and baby's health and well-being to limit exposure," Dr Madjarov explained.

"It wasn't until June that Danielle regained enough strength in her arms to be able to hold her son.

"We wanted to ensure Danielle had ample time to recover before reuniting her with KV."

And finally, last month after 111 days she was able to meet him.

Understandably, it was emotional moment for everyone, particularly Danielle.

In a video, provided to the Daily Mail Online by Carolinas HealthCare System, the mother of four weeps while holding her son for the first time.

"I'm glad that I'm here and I thank Dr Madjarov and the team, along with God for saving my life," she said.