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Baby, given hours to live, turns two months old: Mom says she was manipulated into ‘letting infant die’


It’s her miracle baby, the one that refused to die, even though she was given just hours to live.

OLWAKHE Nowata at home with her mother Andisiwe Nowata. | Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town – It’s her miracle baby, the one that refused to die, even though she was given just hours to live.

The Kraaifontein baby, who was born at Tygerberg Hospital with an encephalocele and diagnosed with a anorectal malformation (a condition that causes bowel contents to leak through the fistula, allowing gas or stool to pass through the vagina), was expected to die within three hours but has now lived to see a second month.

When Andisiwe Nowata, of Wallacedene, discovered she was pregnant with twins five months into her pregnancy she was ecstatic. However, she said her joy was short-lived because it was discovered that one of the foetuses had physical defects while the other had “a brain tumour” and she was advised to terminate the pregnancy – as the only option.

“I had accepted the condition of my children and made them aware that I did not wish to terminate, as this goes against my beliefs and the fact that I was already five months pregnant.

“During an appointment they wanted to perform tests while I was pregnant. However, they made me aware that the procedure was risky and might lead to miscarriage, and I refused,” she said.

However, a week after her appointment at the hospital, Nowata said she consulted a private doctor and it was discovered that one foetus had died. She was referred back to Tygerberg, where she was again given the option to terminate or continue with the pregnancy.

Nowata said for seven weeks she had to carry the dead foetus together with the growing twin as no option besides termination was offered. She said she requested for early delivery to “save” the other foetus but was told the other twin “wasn’t going to make it anyway, after birth”.

“I gave birth on August 8 and on the top of the tumour I discovered that she had no anus,” she said.

In the days that follow, Nowata said she was manipulated into “letting her infant die” and was called selfish for refusing. She said no corrective operations were offered by the hospital and was told to take the infant home “to bond with it before it dies”.

It was only after realising that the baby was not dying that Nowata decided to seek the assistance of a private doctor, who referred her to the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital where the tumour was removed immediately. Further surgery would be performed next year.

Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital said it would comment later.

Tygerberg Hospital communications officer Laticia Pienaar said after the twins were found to have severe abnormalities and after one died in utero, the mother was counselled by senior obstetric /foetal medicine specialists as well as geneticists about the high risk of death and severe disability for the surviving twin.

She said an integrated advanced-care plan, including referrals to social workers, psychologists and community health services was made and a discharge letter was given to the mother with arrangements to bring the child back to Paediatric Emergency Services whenever needed.

“With the assistance of an NGO the child underwent a very high-risk procedure by the neurosurgical team at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital that performed a resection on the encephalocele. She will now require additional surgery to treat the after-effect of the condition and the associated anorectal malformation in the long term,” she said.

Pienaar said there was no evidence that could be traced in the patient’s file of the mother being advised that her child would only survive for three hours.

“It is fully understandable that the mother Ms Nowata was dealing with severe stress at the time and it is possible that the translation of facts or information could have been misinterpreted,” she said.

Cape Argus

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