After 100 days of neonatal intensive care at Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital, 5-month-old Ephraim Maleho was reunited with his family at their Vredenburg home last week.
His mother, Beneline, 27, said her son had been born at 38-weeks on Monday March 8, through a complex C-section, with his intestines and half of his liver protruding from his stomach in a sac, due to a condition called exomphalos.
Ephraim’s condition was picked up by a Vredenburg gynaecologist when his mother went for an ultrasound at 13 weeks.
According to Ms Maleho, the gynaecologist did not disclose Ephraim’s condition, saying only her pregnancy was “high-risk”. She overheard doctors talking about “what the condition was”. When she Googled it, she went into a panic and asked for a transfer to another hospital for a second opinion.
She was sent to Mediclinic Panorama for another scan and doctors transferred her to Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital, where, she says, doctors quickly came up with a way to save her baby’s life.
Principal neonatologist Dr Ricky Dieppenaar said he had used the amniotic sac, preserved at birth, as a sheet to cover the translucent bubble holding the baby’s organs to prevent the organs from becoming infected. This after the bubble had broken into two parts.
“It just seemed logical to use the very membrane that protected baby Ephraim inside the womb as a natural barrier. This membrane is known to contain a number of healing cytokines and essential growth factors and help reduce pain. It also has antibacterial properties, as well as reducing inflammation and scar tissue,” said Dr Dieppenaar.
He said the amniotic tissue had incorporated well, reinforcing the bubble of tissue around Ephraim’s organs, which had started contracting.
Together with the constricting dressing, the bubble reduced dramatically, gently squeezing the organs into Ephraim’s abdomen and allowing his abdominal cavity to expand.
At 2-months, Ephraim had his first surgery to close his abdominal wall and all of his organs were put in the right place.
Two weeks after, he went for another operation to remove two hernias.
Dr Dieppenaar describes Ephraim as “a little hero.”
During Ephraim’s stay at hospital, his parent’s could only visit on Wednesdays and Saturdays, due to Covid-19 protocols. But nurses and doctors kept the family informed about his recovery.
Ephraim was discharged on Tuesday August 3, and his parents are happy to have him home.
Ms Maleho said Ephraim had made an excellent recovery and was adjusting well to being bottle-fed instead of a feeding tube.
She described him as a very happy and friendly child.
“Initially I thought he would be shy as he would lie with his arm covering his face, but he starts smiling the minute he wakes up from naps,” she said.
Ms Maleho said she and Ephraim’s father, Melvroy van Wyk, were “learning something new” every day.
Doctors have told family that Ephraim should be watched during the stages of crawling and walking and they should take extra precautions to prevent falls.
Ephraim would not be able to play contact sports, but he would lead a healthy life, Ms Maleho said.
Mr Van Wyk said: “We thank God for sending these angels to look after our son. They were open about the risks, and supported us to make the necessary decisions for our son informed by the facts. We want other families to know that there are people who understand what it is like to go through a difficult journey like we had with Ephraim, and that there is hope. He is our little miracle warrior.”