Zahara Hargraves fatal heart disease began with a sore throat.
Zahara is only nine years old. She has advanced rheumatic heart disease, reports ABC.
It started with a simple sore throat and then a fever. The untreated illness damaged two of her heart valves.
“She was living in Katherine with her mum and that’s where she got really sick,” Grandma Lily Ngalmi-Hargraves says.
“She couldn’t play, she couldn’t move around.”
She has recently undergone open-heart surgery to have the valves repaired, and prevent her heart from failing.
Lily hopes the operation will mean her granddaughter will have a better future.
“It’s a very big day for me and her,” she says.
“I’m a bit frightened, but I need to get the little girl, get a new life.
“She is a brave girl, one of the bravest girls ever.”
Zahara’s surgeon, Associate Professor Christian Brizard, says it will give her the ability to be an active child again.
“She has a significant or severe mitral regurgitation between the low pressure chamber on the left side of the heart and the high pressure chamber on the left side of the heart,” he says.
“So that mitral valve is leaking, and if not treated it will leak more, and the heart will progressively enlarge more and more.
“We restore her heart to a normal size and shape, we restore the valve so that it does not leak.”
The Royal Children’s Hospital’s infectious diseases unit physician, Associate Professor Andrew Steer, says the disease is 100 per cent preventable.
“It occurs 80 times more commonly in Indigenous people, than in non-Indigenous people,” he says.
“If you treat a strep throat, you can prevent rheumatic heart disease in the future.”
Zahara is now on the road to recovery.
“She’s good, but she’s still sore and she misses the Top End. We both miss the Top End,” Lily says.
“We miss the sea, the salt water, the people.”
We wish Zahara a speedy recovery.
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