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Surgery saves boy born with heart in abdomen

SURGEONS moved a 4-year-old boy's heart from his abdomen back to his chest and repaired a congenital defect yesterday - the first time the double procedure had been performed in Shanghai.

When Li Yao, a Bai minority from Dali in Yunnan Province, was born, doctors found a bulge in his upper abdomen which was beating like a heart.

Medical checks found that the bulge was indeed part of his heart, which had dropped from his chest through a hole in the muscular layer separating the abdominal and chest cavities.

The problem occurs in about one in every 650,000 babies born in China.

Li's father took his son to hospitals in Dali but was told the medical costs would be around 200,000 yuan (US$29,257), far beyond the means of the farmer and his family.

The heart problems meant Li was weaker than other children of the same age and couldn't attend kindergarten.

Last December his story was told in the Dali Daily newspaper and the China Association of Social Work offered to help. It contacted doctors at the Shanghai Children's Medical Center, collected donations and arranged for Li to visit Shanghai.

Doctors found Li was suffering from congenital heart disease. One of the two major arteries in the heart was growing in the wrong place, resulting in poor heart function.

"If he hadn't received surgery in time, the boy may have died before he reached the age of 10 since his heart wouldn't have been able to support a child of that age," said Xia Lin, a hospital official. "We carried out the surgery before the family collected enough money. We may charge him a discounted bill."

Li's treatment cost about 50,000 yuan. The family arrived in Shanghai with around 30,000 yuan donated by the people of Dali and the foundation.

Doctors said yesterday Li's surgery had been successful and he would be discharged in two weeks if his condition remained stable.


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