Boy, 4, born with half-working heart has it reconstructed in life-saving surgery

A four-year-old boy born with half a functioning heart has had part of the organ reconstructed in a successful, life-saving surgery.

Little Sonny-Lee Cook was born eight weeks premature in December 2016 with congenital heart disease, leaving the right half of his heart just a third of the size it should be.

Sonny-Lee's condition, hypoplastic right heart syndrome, means that only the left side of his heart actually functions.

It has been a race against time for Sonny-Lee, from Jaywick, Essex, to have a last-chance life-saving surgery, to help blood flow freely from the right side of his heart to his lungs.

And his mum, Nell Dreelan, 32, has been left delighted after Sonny-Lee finally had the successful open heart surgery on July 8.

The complicated nine-and-a-half-hour operation saw the superior vena cava, at the top of the heart, shut down and cut away from where it usually sits.

This part of the heart was then relocated to underneath the main pulmonary artery, next to the right ventricle – as a kind of natural mechanism to act as a substitute ventricle.

The Glenn shunt, a procedure to let blood flow from the upper part of the body to the lungs, is just the first part of the process for Sonny.

The youngster will have to have a conduit tube fitted around the right side of his heart at some point before his seventh birthday, to help blood flow freely out of the heart.

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But mum-of-four Nell said: "The fact that it has been a success for the time being is a blessing for us as a family. It means everything to us.

"He's doing really well, he was able to come home on Saturday. He's very, very frail and tired, and very wobbly on his feet at the moment.

"But it's amazing to see him with colour in him. I've never seen him so pink.

"Over a seven-week period before his operation, he really deteriorated very quickly. One of the doctors said he'd never seen a child looking so blue.

"He still wanted to run around like a lunatic, but he was blue all the time. As a mum, that was horrible to see.

"Now, he has a new lease of life. It is something words cannot explain."

And despite this still being a while off, Nell added that Sonny-Lee cannot wait to get back to school.

She said: "He never really got the chance to go properly. He started going for a couple of months, just a couple of mornings a week, but then he had to stay at home because of Covid.

"Now, he really wants to go back to school. He really liked it while he was there.

"He'll never be able to do the same amount that other children will be able to do, but it will be good for him to have that to look forward to."

Sonny-Lee's sister Billie-Jean, 13, and his aunt, Destiny Hannam, 17, have set up a fundraising page called Sonny's Army – which helps other families with seriously ill children in hospital.

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