Modern Miracle | 4-year-old Kyleigh’s life-saving heart surgery declared a ‘resounding success’

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4-year-old, Kyleigh ‘Milana’ Kista, from Benoni South Africa was diagnosed with a Complex Congenital Heart Defect at birth, and needed urgent, life-saving treatment, which could only be performed in Boston, United States.

Kyleigh’s condition, known as Tetralogy of Fallot with Pulmonary Atresia, VSD & Mapca was first described by Cardio-Thoracic surgeons as a ‘monster in her chest.’

“Kyleigh does not have the valve that connects the heart to the lungs, the arteries that are meant to be attached to this value is free-floating and underdeveloped and not connected to her heart. She has a large hole in heart and survives on 2 collateral arteries of which one has already started to narrow severely. This all puts a lot of strain on her little body.“ says Serina Kista, Kyleigh’s mom.

In her short life, Kyleigh has endured 3 open-heart surgeries and countless non-invasive procedures that have done little to remedy her warrior heart.

A second chance for Kyleigh

In November 2021, the Kista family’s ‘world came crashing down’ when they were faced with limited options to save their daughter’s life in South Africa.

As a last resort, doctors suggested that the family wait until Kyleigh’s organs begin failing, at which point a heart & lung transplant would be considered. 

As there are a limited number of donors available, and the fact that this procedure has never been performed on a paediatric patient before, the family feared the substantial risk their daughter would be subjected to.

“Kyleigh would need to be condemned to significant suffering and damage to her heart and lungs before being admitted into ICU in a critical condition to be placed on a donor list and fight for her life with no guarantee of finding a donor in time “, said Kyleigh’s mother Serina.

In absolute desperation to save Kyleigh’s life, the family investigated alternative treatments, finally reaching out to the Boston Children’s Hospital in the USA for a second opinion. 

Answering their prayers, doctors revised Kyleigh’s case and restored all hope that their beautiful little girl could be saved and have a better quality of life.

They proposed an innovative technique to repair her heart, which they currently perform with great success at the hospital. They will use Kyleigh current anatomy and reconstructing her blood vessels in order to flow effectively through her lungs while also incorporating her collateral arteries as part of this procedure.” said Serina, while they were weighing their options.

A race against time to save Kyleigh

Understanding the urgency of the procedure, the hospital kindly offered a reduced rate for the operation, which was still an astronomical amount for the family without power or influence.

To fund the operation in the USA, estimated at R5 000 000 ($295,761), the family launched a crowdfunding campaign on BackaBuddy, to appeal to the public to support their final and only hope to save their little one.

“Boston Children’s Hospital has given us new hope and we are holding on to this option with all that is in us. Without it, our little girl will never get the chance to grow up and have a normal, happy, healthy life.” – said Serina.

An outpouring of compassion

With overwhelming support from over donors both locally and internationally, over R4.7 million ($312 590) was raised on BackaBuddy, which was paid over to the medical facility in Boston!

“We received overwhelming support from family, friends, colleagues and the community. Thank you for the heartfelt contributions, prayers and faith that Kyleigh will not only obtain the money for the procedure but will succeed through the procedure, bringing us to tears. We felt hopeless and alone but today we have so many people coming to Kyleigh’s rescue to help us give a future, an opportunity at life” – said Serina, when the campaign was funded.

A mended heart

Kyleigh’s first operation, a cardiac cartherization, took place on 22 March 2022 at Boston Children’s Hospital.

During the 4 hour procedure, which ‘went even better than expected’ , Kyleigh’s arteries were ballooned and a stent was placed and dual supply was fixed.

With Kyleigh making a quick recovery, the final procedure to repair her heart and lung connection took place on 24 March 2022.

After 8 hours on the operating table, doctors declared the surgery a resounding success and Kyleigh was placed on a ventilator in ICU. Just two days after surgery, Kyleigh was taken off the ventilator and moved to High care. (Step-down Unit)

“Kyleigh’s recovery is astounding, it’s truly the grace of God!” – says Serina


Hope Restored: Boston doctors declare 4-year-old Kyleigh Kista’s heart surgery a resounding success @Serina Kista #crowdfunding #heartsurgery #warrior #heart #love #fyp #foryourpage #backabuddy #boston #life #mircale #operation #recovery @BackaBuddy

♬ original sound – Porkys People

‘We can breathe again’

Donors wanting to lend their support to Kyleigh post-surgery, may do so via her BackaBuddy campaign.

“Kyleigh will need medication after surgery. We are not sure what medication will be needed, they will advise us after the surgery is done. She will need annual check-ups and most likely a valve replacement when she is older.” – Serina told IOL

Kyleigh with her parents Gerald Kista, Serina Kista and her sister Hanna out to celebrate on her birthday.
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