Baby Marique was born prematurely at 34 weeks via C-section at the Netcare Clinton Hospital in Alberton on 17 June. But what the doctors and her parents didn’t know at the time of her birth was that this little fighter would end up staying in hospital for 105 days before she could go home.
According to Dr Ashley Jeevarathnum, who heads the Paediatric ICU at the hospital’s paediatric centre of excellence, Marique was diagnosed with a congenital tracheo-oesophageal fistula, which is an abnormal connection between her windpipe and food pipe.
After a complicated, but highly successful surgery to repair the defect in her windpipe and food pipe, Marique was finally ready to be discharged 6 weeks after her birth.
But unfortunately, this was only the beginning of a long, uncertain journey for Johannesburg church minister Rev. André Kloppers and his wife Anré.
“Unfortunately, Marique was only home for two weeks when my wife Anré shouted to me that she had stopped breathing,” says Rev. Kloppers. “This came as a tremendous shock and a friend and I did infant CPR on Marique, and we rushed her back to hospital.”
She was diagnosed with acute life-threatening obstructive apnoea, which means she had episodes when she would stop breathing because of the collapse of her lower airway and had to be ventilated. Dr Jeevarathnum says the apnoea was caused by the obstruction and narrowing of her windpipe because it was so soft from the initial congenital malformation.
We thought we were going to lose her
“There were a number of times when we were so scared that we were going to lose Marique, so I cannot tell you how relieved and grateful we are to have her with us today,” says her father, Rev. Kloppers. “Some of the doctors at the hospital were deeply concerned that she wouldn’t make it, and sometimes we can’t believe that she did. She is a real survivor and our little miracle.”
“That Marique was able to survive is in large part thanks to the extraordinary care she received at the hospital and its neonatal and paediatric intensive care units. The doctors, nurses and other staff members there were absolutely fantastic, providing us with ongoing guidance, and showing the greatest levels of care, throughout this difficult ordeal. The care that my wife and Marique received at the hospital was world class and we are most grateful to all who were involved,” he adds.
Getting Marique on the road to recovery
After consulting with various local and international experts, Dr Carapinha and ear nose and throat (ENT) surgeon, Dr Tim Capon, inserted a tracheostomy. This involved creating an opening in Marique’s neck to place a breathing tube into her windpipe. But this is only a temporary solution so she can be taken off the ventilator.
Time to go home
After spending 105 days in hospital, it was finally time for Marique to go home. She still has a long way to recovery and is currently being fed through a feeding tube every 3 hours. She also needs to sleep with the support of oxygen.
“I will see Marique in a month’s time to make sure her airways remain unobstructed. She is doing exceedingly well, and her prognosis is excellent. We hope that she will go on to outgrow the condition, otherwise she may require a follow up procedure at a later date,” says Dr Jeevarathnum.
“I must say that Marique is exceptionally fortunate to have survived. I am inclined to agree with her parents that her survival is something of a miracle and we are all celebrating her recovery,” he adds.
Rev. Kloppers says he and his wife are very thankful to everyone who was involved in Marique’s care, from the doctors to all the nursing and support staff. “The care that they provided was so personal and really helped to get us through,” he adds.
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