ASHLEIGH HANGS ON

Ashleigh Louw, the six-day-old baby who was born with her heart outside her body and chest wall, is still hanging on for dear life. She has been moved from the intensive care unit to the high care unit of the Chris Hani- Baragwanath Hospital.

Ashleigh Louw, the six-day-old baby who was born with her heart outside her body and chest wall, is still hanging on for dear life. She has been moved from the intensive care unit to the high care unit of the Chris Hani- Baragwanath Hospital.

Dr Sanjee Lingham, the Soweto hospital's acting chief executive, said yesterday the infant was in a critical but stable condition.

"We have moved her because she is stable but still needs individual care and attention. We have not decided what corrective procedure to do on her. Specialists have been meeting since she was born but no decision has been taken yet," he said.

Lingham said he had met with specialists from the Walter Sisulu Paediatric Cardiac Centre for Africa (WSPCCA) yesterday.

The WSPCCA has some of Africa's most experienced paediatric cardiac surgeons. The centre treats disadvantaged children with congenital heart defects from across the continent free of charge.

Lynda Bleazard, chief executive at the WSPCCA, said: "The centre will assist specialists wherever we can.

"There is not much we can do except wait for communication from the Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital."

Ashleigh was born with a rare heart condition known as pentalogy of Fallot ectopia cordis and omphalocele last Saturday. Her heart has holes and is protruding from her chest because half of her rib cage did not develop. The heart is covered by a thin layer of skin.

Her mother, Anastacia Louw, said she was praying for doctors to find a way to help Ashleigh, who is the first baby to be born with this condition in South Africa.

A few similar cases have been recorded in China and India.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Chris Wall, who was born in 1975 in Philadelphia, US, is the longest surviving person with the same condition.

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