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Meet Zahra

Besides having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Zahra was a healthy, bubbly young girl for the first few years of her life.  But 11-year-old Zahra has been in and out of the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital since the doctors discovered that she has multifocal atrial tachycardia, a condition that is more common in older people. What this means is that she has an abnormal heart rate.

Zahra was about three-and-a-half years old when she was diagnosed. Her mom, Shakinah, could not believe it when she saw her little girl suffering from her first seizure. “I thought she had died, because she was completely still,” says Shakinah. Unfortunately, after her first seizure she still suffered from severe seizures that occurred almost every second month as a result of her condition.

Following several tests after the first year of diagnosis, the doctors confirmed that Zahra’s heart beats extremely fast all the time. One of these tests that were done to confirm this was the 24-hour Holter monitor test, which recorded Zahra’s heart rate for a full day while she went about her daily routine.

Although Zahra often experienced seizures, she has been living with this condition for the past eight years and until recent years she has been able to go about her normal day-to-day life where she attended school and enjoyed spending time with her friends and five younger siblings. However, this energetic and fun-loving girl’s life changed in 2015 when she unexpectedly went into cardiac arrest. According to Shakinah, she once again thought that she had lost her little girl. “On 14 May 2015 my whole life changed. I lost my once bubbly little girl,” she says.

What started out as a relaxed day at home for Zahra and her family, turned into a real-life nightmare when little Zahra went into cardiac arrest, something her mom only realised after she rushed her to the hospital. The doctors had to resuscitate her for about fifteen minutes before they could revive little Zahra. Shakinah says there was a big team of doctors who all stayed up and helped to revive Zahra. “They just didn’t stop, they didn’t give up on her.”

Sadly, Zahra suffered from hypoxic brain injury as a result of the oxygen being cut off from her brain during cardiac arrest. This has unfortunately caused Zahra to suffer from more medical complications, such as temporary blindness. Sadly, Zahra has also lost her ability to speak. Zahra was admitted to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the hospital straight after the cardiac arrest and she stayed there for about three weeks. During this time the doctors inserted a pacemaker into her heart that helps to control her heart rate.

Shakinah says that the ICU at the Hospital is “fantastic.” Even though it was hard to be next to her child in such a critical environment, Shakinah knew that all the doctors and especially the nursing staff were not going to give up on her little girl. After three weeks Zahra was moved to the B2 medical ward at the hospital where she has been on the road to recovery.

Zahra is a great example of a true fighter. She has survived many medical complications against all odds and with her mother, as well as the doctors and nurses at the Hospital by her side, Zahra is slowly but surely making progress. Her mom says they all have so much hope for her.

“She is a fighter and she is not going to give up. She might have been at death’s door, but she is going nowhere.”

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