World's youngest pacemaker baby now doctor fighting heart defects

Dr Liza Morton underwent a first-of-its-kind surgery at Glasgow's Yorkhill Hospital when she was just 11 days old.

World’s youngest pacemaker baby now doctor fighting heart defects across Scotland Healthcare Improvement Scotland

A doctor who underwent pioneering surgery to become the world’s youngest pacemaker baby is now working to help those with congenital heart disease across Scotland.

Dr Liza Morton was born in 1978 with an abnormal heart rhythm meaning the electrical impulses controlling the organ were blocked.

At just 11 days old, she underwent a first-of-its-kind surgery at Glasgow’s Yorkhill Hospital.

“Babies born in the 1940s with congenital heart disease had a 20% chance of surviving into adulthood whereas today that survival rate is 90%,” the now 44-year-old said.

“However, approximately half of the babies are still being discharged before their need for specialist lifelong care is recognised, which means they don’t have access to the specialist services that could help them.”

Congenital heart disease (CHD) is the most common congenital abnormality which affects approximately 1% of babies with around 20,000 people currently living in Scotland.

A quarter of babies with the condition require medical intervention in the first year of life.

In a bid to raise awareness, the chartered counselling psychologist from Larbert submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament calling for improved care over ten years ago.

“By setting healthcare standards, we can significantly improve care by engendering trust, safety and patient empowerment, and that’s why I’m delighted to be involved with Healthcare Improvement Scotland’s development group to create standards for CHD and work with them to enable people with this condition to live as normal a life as possible,” Dr Morton said.

She is representing the views of patients on the group having been voluntarily working with various health committees and co-writing them book Healing Hearts and Minds: A holistic approach to coping well with congenital heart disease.

The work currently under way will publish a set of standards for NHS Scotland to achieve in its care.

NHS National Services Scotland has previously published specialist CHD standards for the Royal Hospital for Children and the Golden Jubilee in Glasgow and Healthcare Improvement Scotland has been commissioned to fill the gap in provision by developing standards that will apply to all NHS boards in Scotland.

A full draft from the project is expected to be published for consultation in July this year.

Rachel Hewitt, programme manager on the CHD standards work at Healthcare Improvement Scotland, said: “We are excited to be part of the ground breaking work taking place in Scotland around raising standards of care for people with congenital heart disease.

“The development group working on this is passionate and committed with a wealth of experience and it is a privilege to work with people like Liza who has been so willing to share her unique and personal experiences on how CHD has impacted her life.”

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