One year later – young heart transplant patient is full of smiles

A year after her successful heart transplant, Parusia Muhigirwa (13), is full of smiles and shares her experience of her first year’s experience with a new heart as part of Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week.

Parusia had dilated cardiomyopathy which causes the heart muscle to become incredibly weak, floppy and enlarged. This is one of many reasons children develop end-stage heart failure.

“I’m so grateful for my more energy, I can actually climb stairs now!” beams Parusia.

“I also don’t have to spend so much time in hospital which is great. I can go to school and see my friends,” she continues.

Parusia received her transplant during the second wave of COVID-19 in February 2021 thanks to a collaborative effort by the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital and Groote Schuur Hospital team.

When asked about how she felt, knowing that she had to undergo immunosuppression during the time of COVID-19, Parusia admits she was nervous at first. “I spoke to my doctors about the risks of COVID-19, especially knowing that I am vulnerable after my transplant,” says Parusia. “That’s why I chose to get my vaccine when it was my turn, and my mother got hers: to ensure I am safe and we don’t need to worry.”

“We are delighted with how well Parusia is doing after her transplant. It really highlights fantastic teamwork between the Red Cross Children’s Hospital and Groote Schuur transplant teams. Her health and vitality is a credit to the fact that transplantation gives a second chance at life. We are really grateful to her donor and the family,” says Prof Mignon McCulloch who heads up the paediatric Transplantation Service at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.

“We are proud of our team for everything they have done through COVID-19. They have been able to continue offering world class care to our young patients with chronic conditions, including those in the cardiac service,” says Dr Anita Parbhoo, Chief Executive Officer of the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.