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Critical Heart Surgery Gives 3-year-old a Second Chance

April 4, 2022

Critical Heart Surgery Gives 3-year-old a Second Chance - featured image

Ilario Arries was diagnosed with congenital heart disease that left a defect that could have been fatal. Today, he has a second chance at a full and healthy life.

For three-year-old Ilario Arries, playing was a guarded activity. An activity that most toddlers enjoy without thinking twice, was limited due to his decreased effort tolerance. Ilario was diagnosed with a ventricular septal defect, a birth condition found in the heart in which there is a hole in the wall (septum) that separates the two ventricles.

Thanks to a partnership between The Pelo Foundation, Wings and Wishes and Busamed, Ilario can finally play again and go on to live a full and healthy life.

Dr. Krubin Naidoo and Dr. Sharmel Bhika, cardio-thoracic surgeons at Busamed Modderfontein Private Hospital, formed the lead team on Ilario’s case. Two months of preparation, and a team consisting of specialised paediatric cardiac surgeons, anaesthetist, perfusionist, scrub nurses, and post-surgical teams all came together in March 2022 to change little Ilario’s life. “The surgery went well. We put together a remarkable team that helped achieve a great outcome for our patient,” said Dr. Naidoo.

This type of paediatric cardiac surgery, requiring cardiopulmonary bypass, was a first for this team at Busamed Modderfontein Private Hospital. Dr. Naidoo and Dr. Bhika are satisfied with the outcome and now that the service is up and running, the team is eager to treat more patients requiring this specialized surgical skill set.

Speaking about Ilario’s particular case of congenital heart disease (CHD), Dr. Naidoo said that had the surgery been delayed, the degree of surgical intervention would have grown steeper. “Our patient had two issues – he had the structural defect in the septum which resulted in shunting in the heart causing excessive blood flow to his lungs – and the second issue was an aortic valve which was distorted by the blood flow through the structural defect, resulting in a leaking valve.” Dr. Naidoo said after surgery, Illario could expect to have a normal quality of life and fit right back into society.

As with any condition, early detection is still the best course of action. Dr. Naidoo said in developed countries, CHD is usually detected in utero. This is not the case in developing regions like South Africa where most cases are diagnosed following birth.

“In theory we can screen all children no matter which facility they use for check-ups, be it a mobile clinic, local family doctor or hospital.” He added that the first step in the management of CHD would optimally be an efficient antenatal screening program that would lead to an earlier initiation of treatment.

“Most cases of CHD present in a child as either having a blue or dusky appearance but we also see children with repeated chest infections, lethargy or an inability to retain their stamina during playtime or outdoor activities, or failure to thrive or grow as expected for their age.” Dr. Naidoo added that sometimes, CHD is misdiagnosed or detected when a child presents with symptoms assigned to other conditions.

“CHD is a progressive disease that we are trying to rectify with more research and pro-bono surgeries like the one we’ve done on little Ilario.” He said Ilario’s first post-surgery check-up went smoothly and everyone on his team was happy with the outcome.

“We work with a highly specialized and experienced team who have been committed to setting up this cardiac surgery service at Busamed, Modderfontein. It is thanks to their hard work and the commitment of Busamed that we can be grateful for the access to this service and the positive outcome of this case,’’ said Dr. Bhika.

Ilario’s mom, Mechelle said it was a long and fretful journey learning about her child’s condition. She said there would never be enough words to describe the gift Dr. Naidoo, Dr. Bhika and all the medical staff who participated in her son’s surgery. “They have given us the gift of health that we will never be able to express enough gratitude for.”

She said she carries deep compassion for parents and children suffering from CHD complications. In Ilario’s case, “I held on to my faith to give us strength.”

To contact Dr Naidoo or Dr Bhika, please reach out to the Busamed Modderfontein Private Hospital Management team on Tel: 011 458 2006 or Email:

To contact Pelo Foundation or to donate you can visit their website at or email:

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