World prematurity day celebrated
18 November 2020 | Health
Latoya Carolissen; Mother; “My baby is living testimony that at 23 weeks she isn’t just a foetus, she is a baby.”
Gabrielle Mirabelle Carolissen was born at 23 weeks on 8 June 2020, weighing only 540 grams. She is the youngest baby yet to be born in Namibia.
Five months on, baby Gabrielle is thriving, gaining weight each day although she is still confined to the neonatal ICU of Medi-Clinic Swakopmund.
Her mother, Latoya, calls Gabrielle her miracle baby.
“Our eldest is 12 and we always wanted to have another baby. We waited eight years before we received the news in January that I was pregnant. Before Gabrielle was born at 23 weeks, I spent a month in hospital, and was later placed on strict bed rest.”
She says that one of the doctors told her that her pregnancy would result in a miscarriage. “But she also said that God has the last say. I held onto that and my mother heart telling me, where there is life, there is hope. After Gabrielle’s birth, we spent four months at Medi-Clinic in Windhoek.”
Gabrielle’s lungs weren’t fully developed and she was very prone to infections. The doctors tried every single antibiotic they could to get her infection levels under control. Through various tests it was later realized she does not have a thyroid and the thyroid hormone.
Latoya says that every day is an uphill battle; each day a different challenge.
“There are tiny improvements each day and it is amazing to see her thriving. She is very active.”
Gabrielle was born breach and since her first day she has been very active, kicking her legs.
“While I was pregnant, she was kicking and moving around. Her willpower and determination is amazing to see. She is such a joy.”
Latoya hopes to take Gabrielle home by Christmas.
“She is still connected to the oxygen machine and this might be the case for while even after we are discharged. We are still struggling to feed her. She is truly our miracle baby and if you look at her initials (GMC), I see it as God’s miracle child. This cannot be more fitting for Gabrielle. My husband Leswin always reminds me that we should trust in God and keep on praying, like we’ve been doing.”
Latoya is of the opinion that something needs to be done to address the World Health Organisation guidelines when it comes to abortion.
“My baby is living testimony that at 23 weeks your baby isn’t just a foetus. My Gabrielle is living proof and therefore I am strongly against abortions.”
She encourages other mothers to keep the faith and never to give up.
“It’s not easy; I can testify to that. It takes crying, sleepless nights and praying, but keep going. I want premature babies to be given a chance and for doctors to always try their utmost to give these babies their best chance at survival.”
The world celebrates prematurity day on 17 November and Swakopmund Medi-Clinic hosted a special ceremony for all the premature babies who were born there.
Dr Sebastian Gericke, a paediatrician at the hospital, said that this year’s theme is based on a quote by Dr Seuss, that “a person’s a person no matter how small”.
The main aim of the celebration at the hospital is to create awareness. The day was celebrated with mothers and their premature babies, where stories were shared on babies thriving after they were born early.
“There’s life after prematurity. A baby that is born early is still a full born person, still has rights. There is a lot of information that needs to be shared, especially to parents on what to expect when their baby is in the Neonatal ICU,” Dr Gericke said.
He called on mothers to donate their breast milk to either the hospital in Swakopmund or to the breast milk clinic in Windhoek.
“There is always a need for breast milk. Additionally, medical aids expect mothers to pay for breast milk out of their own pockets and it’s a shame. Breast milk is essential to the growth of premature babies. The medical funds and their governing association needs to recognise that breast milk is essential to the survival of premature babies. This places a lot of stress on families who are financially challenged. Hopefully we will address this and make it more affordable and accessible when we establish our own breast milk donor bank.”
Dr Gericke said that one in ten babies is born premature globally.
“In Swakopmund, from November 2019 to November 2020, 50 babies were born premature. We had 331 deliveries, of which roughly 16% to 17% of the babies were premature. We had one baby born at 23 weeks, one baby at 24 weeks, two babies at 28 weeks, three babies at 29 weeks, two babies at 32 weeks, three babies at 34 weeks, two babies at 35 weeks, and the rest at 36 and 37 weeks. A premature baby is a baby born before 37 complete weeks.”