Graphic: To heal a broken heart

To heal a broken heart >

Date published

05 Aug 2017

"Mother and baby both well" are the words everyone wants to hear when awaiting news of the arrival of a newborn child.

Unfortunately, this wasn't the case for Adelaide mother Rajani and her new little Arnav. Rajani's pregnancy was traumatically cut short when her waters suddenly broke at just 28 weeks.

"This was so scary, knowing that I was a very long way short of a full-term pregnancy," Rajani says.

And there was more than this to concern her – Rajani was carrying twins.

Rajani was immediately admitted to Adelaide's Women's & Children's Hospital so the condition of her unborn babies could be closely monitored. Medications were prescribed to prevent the births proceeding, and to boost the development of the unborn babies' lungs in readiness for their premature birth.

Four weeks later, Rajani's tiny twin sons were delivered by caesarean section.

Arnev Koirla

Born eight weeks before their full-term, neonatal medical care was provided around-the-clock to keep close watch over the health and safety of the new little ones. However, concern grew for the smaller of the two boys, Arnav, who weighed just 970 grams at birth, and was actually losing weight.

Something was wrong.

Doctors determined that Arnav had been born with a Coarctation of the Aorta, a dangerous aortic abnormality. The aorta is the largest artery in the body, carrying life-giving blood from the heart to the head, neck and arms, and most of the body's major organs, including the heart itself.

A Coarctation is an abnormal narrowing in the aorta, which produces a very high blood pressure in the upper body, and greatly reduces blood flow to the rest of the body, starving the body of life-giving nutrients.

A baby born with this condition is at high risk of heart failure unless the narrowing is repaired urgently by highly-specialised surgery.

Just days old, Arnav needed this surgery urgently – at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne.

Melbourne is 725 kilometres from Adelaide – an eight-hour drive – but the RFDS aircraft covers this ground in just 90 minutes.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) was alerted and a RFDS aircraft soon departed Adelaide Airport with a RFDS Flight Nurse giving sick little Arnav critical care in the air.

Because mum Rajani needed to stay in Adelaide to care for Arnav's twin brother Ayush, Arnav was accompanied by his father Dipak on the emergency aeromedical RFDS flight to Melbourne.

Rajani & Arnav today

After successful surgery, Arnav made his second RFDS flight, returning to Adelaide for an emotional reunion with his mother and brother Ayush.

Tiny Arnav immediately began to gain weight and made a complete recovery.

Today (pictured with mum Rajani), Arnav is a happy four-year-old boy enjoying life to the full.

Arnav is just one of more than 15 newborn infants who are urgently transferred from Adelaide to Melbourne by the RFDS for cardiac surgery every year.


Arnav's father, Dipak, remembers the experience clearly: "There are no words to explain how thankful we were, and still are," he says.

"Thank you Flying Doctor – and keep doing what you are doing so more little ones like Arnav can benefit."

Every day the RFDS provides more than 20 emergency aeromedical transfers throughout South and Central Australia alone – over 100 across the country – for people like little Arnav.

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