A heavily pregnant woman from Folkestone in Kent has undergone a rare emergency operation to deliver her baby and repair a tear in her aorta to save both their lives.
The time-critical procedure took place at King’s College Hospital in London after Margaret Wang, who was 37 weeks pregnant, became unwell at home on the night of Thursday 22 June.
Ms Wang’s partner, Peter Warren, called the NHS 111 after she woke in the middle of the night with excruciating head and back pain. The helpline advised the couple to make their way to hospital without delay.
Medics at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford carried out a CT scan, which identified a tear in Ms Wang’s aorta – the major artery that carries blood out of the heart and around the body. An aortic tear – also known as a dissection – can prove fatal if not detected and repaired quickly.
As a matter of urgency, Ms Wang was sent via blue-light ambulance with her husband, a midwife and a doctor to King’s College Hospital, which is a specialised cardiac centre in the treatment of aortic disease. When she arrived, a team of obstetricians, paediatricians, cardiothoracic surgeons, nurses and anaesthetists were waiting to get her into the operating theatre.
Once under general anaesthetic, the obstetricians worked quickly to perform a caesarean section and they delivered a baby boy. The baby required help with breathing and was put on a ventilator by the paediatrician. The cardiothoracic team, led by Olaf Wendler, Professor of Cardiac Surgery, then opened Ms Wang’s chest to replace part of her aorta.
Forty-two year old Margaret, who is originally from Los Angeles but has lived in the UK for the last 11 years, is now making an excellent recovery in hospital. Her baby son, who is yet to be named, is off the ventilator and is also doing well. She hopes they will be able to return home in the coming days to be reunited with Peter and their other son, two-year-old Wolfie.
Talking about her experience, Ms Wang said, “It all happened so quickly. I have high blood pressure but never thought this could happen.
“When I arrived at King’s, I was texting my family in the United States. I explained that I was undergoing an emergency heart operation and I didn’t know what the outcome would be. I told them I loved them - it was a very emotional time. At that point, Professor Wendler told me that I was going in to the operating theatre.
“The team operated for five hours to deliver my son and save my life. I can’t thank them enough for the amazing care they provided that night and continue to deliver to me and my son.
“The NHS is a precious resource. We have access to these amazing experts who do everything they can to save lives. We are very lucky indeed.”
Professor Wendler, who was called in to King’s to perform the live-saving operation, added, “In situations like this, time is absolutely critical. Once the baby was born we had a small window of time to repair the aortic dissection and prevent a catastrophic bleed.
“Pregnancy can make the tissues in the body softer, but for the aorta to tear like this is extremely rare. In my 20-year career, I’ve only seen aortic dissection in pregnant women on three occasions.
“I’m very proud that the whole team at King’s came together to provide the very best care for Margaret and her baby. This is the strength of the NHS and why we love our jobs.”