The little girl named after the surgeon who saved her life

At just 20 weeks pregnant, first-time parents Bea and Paul were faced with the terrifying news that something was not right with their baby’s heart. A routine ultrasound had revealed the four chambers of their growing baby’s heart could not be seen.

It was then that the couple first met Yves d’Udekem, a cardiac surgeon at The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) who would later operate on their two-day-old daughter’s heart, and touch their lives so profoundly that he would inspire the name of their little girl.

“Immediately we went to The Royal Women’s Hospital and found out there that our baby had complex heart issues, but it was too early to know exactly what is was,” Bea said.

“We we’re referred to the RCH, where we met Yves, and he sat us down and did a drawing of the baby’s heart to show us what he thought might be wrong. We still have that drawing more than nine years later.”

Weeks went by before their baby girl arrived by emergency caesarean on a Sunday afternoon in winter. As quickly as she came into the world, she was whisked away down the road to the specialist care of the RCH.

Two days later, she had her first cardiac surgery, under the watchful eyes and world-class skills of the RCH cardiac team.

“It was a horrible day. But after about nine hours we got a call to say the surgery had been successful, and we would be able to see her the next day in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit,” Bea remembers.

“We met Yves again and he told us he’d gone for broke.”

Baby Tomlin, as she was affectionately known in the early days, was diagnosed with transposition of the great arteries, hypoplastic arch and ventricular septal defect (VSD).

She would need another surgery at one-year-old, and more throughout her life as she grows.

“She started her recovery and like many cardiac kids when they are so little, we had some setbacks along the way,” Bea said.

But as the days passed, as Baby Tomlin grew stronger and the fears they had experienced in the first few days of her life settled, Bea and Paul knew they had to decide on a name.

“Since I was seven-years-old and long before Beyoncé, I had wanted to name a daughter, Blue. But before her arrival, it was explained to us that she would be known as a ‘blue baby’ because of her heart condition. We knew then we couldn’t name her Blue, but we didn’t have another name in mind,” Bea said.

“The nurses we’re asking what you will call her, but we we’re exhausted, adrenaline rushing and running on empty and we were trying to find other names.”

“Eventually, we got onto the topic of cardiac surgeons and the amazing work they can do, and that’s when we thought what about Yve for a name.”

That was it, Baby Tomlin would be named Yve and the nurses caring for her would be some of the first to know.

“It turns out the nurses were running a sweep on what name we would choose, none had picked Yve but they took great delight and made a sign with her name on it and hung it above her crib,” Bea said.

“Apparently Yves blushed when he heard about little Yve’s name!”

Fast forward many years and a curious six-year-old Yve was desperate to meet the man who saved her life. In her school uniform, she waited patiently with her mum at the RCH and her wish came true.

“I didn’t know what he looked like and I really wanted to see him, but mum told me we might not be able to meet him because he might be in an operation,” Yve said.

“It was fun to meet him, we took a picture together and I asked him quite a lot of questions. I asked about the surgery and some other questions about hearts, and he showed me everything on my heart model.”

Yve is now a happy, healthy and thriving nine-year-old. She enjoys swimming, going on bike rides, playing with her lego collection, and would like to be a teacher when she grows up.

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