Cape Town – Nosipho Nkantini had an emotional reunion with her baby boy, who was delivered by emergency cesarean section at just 25 weeks old while unconscious and on assisted ventilation for Covid-19.
Nkantini, from Eerste River, was delighted to meet her baby boy for the first time. The reunion came after the hospital had to search for the mother, who spent Christmas heartbroken and mistakenly assuming her baby was born too early to survive.
Their moving meeting took place on January 4 in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Netcare N1 City Hospital in Goodwood, about three weeks after she arrived in the world on December 17.
“When they showed me my baby, I was crying because I was so happy. I just couldn’t believe it. He’s alive, ”said Nkantini, a professional nurse in the public sector.
“It was like a miracle, and I decided to name it Oyena, which means ‘the one chosen by God’.”
In early December, when she was only halfway through her pregnancy, Nosipho developed symptoms of Covid-19. She contacted her GP, who initially had no suspicion that she had the virus and instead prescribed her antibiotics.
“I went for a pregnancy check-up and suddenly felt very short of breath. I had a quick Covid-19 test, and it came back negative. Still, I couldn’t breathe and it was terrifying.
“I couldn’t have x-rays or certain treatments for my symptoms because I was pregnant. My second Covid-19 test came back positive. “
She was transferred to the Netcare N1 City hospital and shortly after arriving, she lost consciousness and was placed on a ventilator in the “red” area of the hospital, dedicated to the care of patients positive for Covid-19 .
“Since then, I don’t remember anything until I woke up a few days later, when I was told that I had suffered from complications and that my baby had been delivered by emergency cesarean section”, Nkantini said.
“They told me my baby was in the NICU, but I was so overwhelmed. Besides the fact that I was still very weak recovering from Covid, I had already lost a baby who had given birth at 28 weeks, so I was extremely traumatized imagining this to happen again.
When Nkantini was well enough to be discharged, her baby still needed life support and highly specialized care at the NICU.
Unfortunately, during her emergency admission, the contact details of Nkantini and her relatives were out of date and efforts to reach her became increasingly urgent.
Social worker Ronel Grobler was hired to help reach the baby’s mother, but the holiday season added to the difficulties as they reached out to doctors and their staff – many of whom were on vacation – to try to reach her.
“We were very concerned about Nosipho, and when all else failed, we contacted the local police, who promised to help us with the search.
Meanwhile, Nkantini was desperate.
“At home, I was too scared to call the hospital because I convinced myself that my baby was dead and I couldn’t bear to have my worst fears confirmed. Christmas without him was terrible, I was so stressed, ”said Nkantini.
“When the police arrived at my house, I thought they were coming to tell me that my baby was dead. I couldn’t believe it when they told me my little boy was fine and he was waiting for me in the hospital. It was a great relief, and afterwards the police said, “We didn’t want to scare you.” “
Dr Ricky Dippenaar, a neonatologist who practices at Netcare N1 City Hospital, said Nkantini’s baby boy – who at this point had not yet been named – was alive and well, despite being born so prematurely.
“At first he had a bit of a stormy course because he was born just 25 weeks gestation, and also because his mother had been so sick with Covid-19 while he was in the womb.
“Fortunately, the little baby has tested negative for Covid-19, which is often the case with babies born to mothers positive for Covid-19. However, the mother’s Covid can still impact the unborn baby. He has made good progress and is eating full meals and continues to gain weight.
Dr Dippenaar explained that many mothers whose babies need to be cared for in an NICU environment experience “double separation”.
“Double separation is when the mother cannot hold her baby and can no longer feel the baby in her. Psychologically, it’s very difficult, and in this case, it was made even worse by the mother’s story and the traumatic experience of Covid-19.
After Nkantini completed her period of isolation for Covid-19, she was finally able to see her baby for the first time on January 4.
“I was so happy but at the same time it was very difficult not to be able to hold him back at the start. The NICU staff said he was a miracle baby, and we hope he will soon grow strong enough to take him home.
“I am very grateful to all of the doctors and hospital staff who treated my baby and I, and for bringing us together. As a healthcare worker myself, I am especially grateful to everyone on the front lines caring for people with Covid-19, and I owe them my life.
Special thanks were given to gynecologist Dr Bedwill Jentel, doctor Dr Chris Greyling, neonatologist, Dr Dippenaar, pediatric intensivist Dr Shetil Nana and the hospital neonatology team.
Nkantini and the social worker both expressed their gratitude to the Kleinvlei police station for their quick help and vital role in uniting mother and child.
Nkantini also called on the public to take Covid-19 seriously and do everything possible to prevent its spread.
“I am a professional nurse, and since I was at high risk of developing severe Covid-19 because I have diabetes, my employer transferred me to an office position, where I was part of the follow-up team and research helping Covid-19 patients and contacts to help fight the spread of the coronavirus, ”Nkantini said.
“This virus travels so fast and it can have devastating effects. By the time a family member becomes ill, often the virus has already infected their loved ones and those around them.
“Covid-19 is real, and we need to protect each other by taking all precautions.”