NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 28 – After 150 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), Baby Jeremy Tubula can now go home after he was finally given the clean bill of health and discharged weighing 3.5 kilograms.
Born at 24 weeks weighing 400 grams, there was little hope that he would survive as most of his vital organs were yet to fully mature.
Jeremy fought for every breath, facing daily challenges caused by a premature birth that includes breathing, infections, anemia, feeding tolerance, blood count among others.
His mother Catherine Nkune recalls, “Most parents dream of the moment their child is born and holding them only seconds after. But for my husband James and I, it would be a very long time before we could ever cuddle or gently caress our precious little boy. From the simple questions about his diapers to overwhelming medical procedures, we were in for a long wait which we never expected.”
Medics said Catherine developed complications at 22 weeks, which subsequently placed her on bed rest to manage her bleeding which was as a result of a Placental Abruption.
It is a rare yet serious complication of pregnancy.
The placenta develops in the uterus during pregnancy. It attaches to the wall of the uterus and supplies the baby with nutrients and oxygen. Placental abruption occurs when the placenta partially or completely separates from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery. This can decrease or block the baby’s supply of oxygen and nutrients and cause heavy bleeding in the mother.
Placental abruption often happens suddenly. Left untreated, it endangers both the mother and baby.
Neonatologist Miriam Karanja also narrated Baby Jeremy’s journey during growth and encouraged women to seek ante-natal care in their early pregnancies to avoid threats that lead to mortality.
“Baby Jeremy has grown, he is healthy, he cries, he throws tantrums, sleeps, giggles and he displays normal reflexes, just like any other child and we are happy that Jeremy went on to fight and won one medical battle after another.”
“Preventing deaths and complications from preterm birth starts with a healthy pregnancy. Quality care before, between and during pregnancies will ensure all women have a positive pregnancy experience,” Karanja said.
World Health Organizations (WHO) Antenatal care guidelines include key interventions to help prevent preterm birth, such as counseling on healthy diet and optimal nutrition, and tobacco and substance use of ultrasound to help determine gestational age and detect multiple pregnancies; and a minimum of 8 contacts with health professionals throughout pregnancy to identify and manage other risk factors, such as infections.
Other causes of premature birth include:
Pre-eclampsia: Is the development of elevated blood pressure and protein in the urine after the 20th week of pregnancy. This condition can lead to serious complications for the mother and fetus including premature birth. The only known cure is delivery of the baby.
Smoking: There are many well-known risks associated with smoking during pregnancy, including low birth weight babies and premature deliveries.
Uterine or cervical abnormalities: This includes stretching or abnormally shaped uterus or cervix, as well as fibroids or even having too much or too little amniotic fluid.
Recurring infections, chronic illnesses, Abortion, Mother’s age, alcohol, and drug abuse, Heredity among others.
This is the second historical milestone achieved by KNH doctors in successfully nurturing a preterm baby born weighing 400grams.
Baby Hope made headlines in 2011 as she was born prematurely weighing just 400grams. It was feared she may not survive due to her underdeveloped features.
Now eight years old, Hope has beaten all odds and survived and showing no signs of cerebral palsy, vision or hearing problems, or other disabilities common in premature babies.
-Premature Births in Kenya-
In Kenya, 193,000 babies are born too soon each year and 13,300 children under five die due to direct preterm complications.
Currently, premature births are the leading causes of death among children under five around the world, and a leading cause of disability and ill health later in life. Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia account for over 60 percent of preterm births worldwide. Of the fifteen million babies born too early each year, more than one million die due to complications related to preterm birth. This is according to a USAID 2015 report in partnership with other stakeholders.