Big love for little fighters

Sibulele Majavu, 35 and Dr Miemie du Preez in the neonatal unit at Tygerberg Hospital.

Weighing just 680g at birth, Othalive Majavu has fought hard for every breath, and she continues to fight for her life at Tygerberg Hospital.

World Prematurity Day is on Sunday November 17, and Tygerberg Hospital staff will hold a World Preemie Day 5km fun walk on Saturday November 16 to create awareness about pre-term births, of which there are some 15 million annually, according to the World Health Organisation.

Othalive’s mother, Sibulele Majavu, 35, was transferred from Khayelitsha day hospital to Tygerberg on Tuesday October 8, after doctors realised her baby would be premature.

Othalive was born, at 27 weeks, later that day by Caesarian section.

Ms Majavu feared her baby was going to die because it was “so tiny”.

“At the start of my pregnancy, I experienced complications with my high blood pressure. The doctors couldn’t really do anything to get it under control.”

Several years earlier, she had given birth to a stillborn baby, at six months, because of problems with her blood pressure.

“After spending three days in hospital, I am now doing well and I have no complications or pain,” she said.

According to neonatologist Dr Miemie du Preez, Tygerberg Hospital is the second-largest children’s neonatal unit in the country.

Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Gauteng treats the largest number of babies under 1.5 kg.

“I have been working in this field for over 20 years, and our neonatal unit has 134 beds occupied at any given time,” she said.

“The Western Cape has a high number of premature births due to factors such as smoking, drug abuse, poverty and genetic factors.”

The tiniest baby born at Tygerberg weighed 490g.

“The baby survived due to the total dedication of the mother and the nursing staff.

“A simple infection could have sent that baby to the intensive care unit. Being born with such a low birth weight opens the baby up to developing blindness, hearing loss and chronic lung problems in the future,” she said.

“We try and stabilise the baby as soon as it is born as it did not spend 280 days or 40 weeks in the womb. When babies are born premature, they struggle to swallow and suck well and need to be aided.”

With underdeveloped brains, lungs, bowels and blood vessels, these babies are “born under construction”, said Dr Du Preez.

“A third of premature babies can develop learning disabilities and even cerebral palsy,” she said.

The first 1 000 days are vital in a child’s physical and mental development, and the right care and nutrition are key during this window period.

“I love interacting with the mothers and the nurses,” said Du Preez.

“However, a major challenge in this country is resources. If a premature baby stays three months at a private hospital it would cost the parents around R1 million. Here at Tygerberg Hospital we make do with limited resources.”

The Tygerberg Hospital Children’s Trust is organising the fun walk. Tickets cost R50 and for R150 a T-shirt and goodie bags will be given to the first 500 entrants.

Email www.howler.co.za and contact@tygerbergchildren.org.za for tickets and for more information.