WINDHOEK - Seven months into her pregnancy in 2015, Utjitaye Kangunÿe was given the option to either terminate her pregnancy because her unborn baby would have serious birth defects.
“I felt that if I was to give birth to a child with a disability, I wouldn’t be the first to raise such a child so why should I terminate a pregnancy. I get very angry when I think that they wanted me to terminate my pregnancy because my child is fine apart from the Oesophagus,” the brave 36- year-old mother reminisced.
Three-year-old, Godhartd Kamberipa was born with oesophageal atresia, a birth defect that affects a baby’s oesophagus.
During her pregnancy, she did not experience abnormal symptoms.
“Only the ultra scan detected that my child had serious defects and that he would not be a normal child,” she recounted in an interview.
She also said the doctors told her that her son, who turns three on September 29, would have serious defects and that it was better to terminate the pregnancy.
In September 29 of that year, Kangunÿe held her baby for the first time.
“The doctors told me that he had blood on the brain and that something else was wrong but they could not tell what exactly, but when my water broke (at birth) it was really a lot,” Kangunÿe related from her family shack in Otjomuise’ 8ste Laan informal settlement.
Godhartd was born without an oesophagus, she said.
Oesophagus is the tube through which food passes from the mouth to the stomach.
At birth, the doctors had to implant a tube that would enable him to live a normal or close to normal life, she related.
The information on Gordhartd’s health passport indicates that he has Oesophageal atresia. Oesophageal atresia is a rare birth defect that affects a baby’s oesophagus, according to the National Health Service (NHS) website.
The upper part of the oesophagus does not connect with the lower oesophagus and stomach. It usually ends in a pouch, which means food cannot reach the stomach.
It often happens along with another birth defect called a tracheo-oesophageal fistula, which is a connection between the lower part of the oesophagus and the windpipe (trachea), according to the NHS website.
This causes air to pass from the windpipe to the oesophagus and stomach, and stomach acid to pass into the lungs.
These defects mean the baby will not be able to swallow safely, if at all. They could also develop life-threatening problems such as choking and pneumonia if not treated quickly, so surgery will usually be carried out within a few days of birth.
Godhartd has had six operations since he was born, the most recent being in August, explained Kangunÿe.
“The problem is that the tube leaks and the food goes to the lungs. He has had to be treated for pneumonia and when it’s cold like now, he does not sleep because he coughs all night,” explained the mother of three.
During our interview, Godhartd silently walked back and forth and each time he went out the mother would call him back inside their home. The little boy who did not speak for the duration that New Era was at their home was wheezing loudly and the mother explained it is because of pneumonia.
“He really coughs a lot,” added Kangunÿe looking at her son who was fiddling with papers. Since the last surgery, Godhartd has not had solid food. “We’ve been feeding him milk only as per the doctors’ advice. They told us not to feed him solids and if we do it should be blended,” explained Kangunÿe.
“But I don’t have a blender so I am waiting to get money before I buy one.” But each time Godhartd eats solid food, he throws up, said Kangunde.
“We were told to go back to the doctor in January next year (or when he is not feeling well) when they will determine whether to insert a feeding tube in his stomach but until then, he may not eat solid food at all,” says the mother.
She has to buy 1, 8 kg of powdered milk every week to feed her son.
“It only lasts for one week and then the father and I struggle again,” she added.
According to the NHS website doctors may suspect a baby has oesophageal atresia before they are born if routine ultrasound scans show a lot of amniotic fluid in the womb, although this can have a number of causes.
Tests to check for the condition will be carried out after the baby is born and if they seem to be having problems swallowing or breathing.
A thin feeding tube may be passed down the baby’s throat through their nose, to see if it reaches their stomach, and an X-ray may be carried out to check the oesophagus.
Kangunÿe said her son lives a normal life and has no complaints when it is not cold. “He talks and he plays well. He is very normal,” she said with a positive attitude.
2018-09-10 10:19:09 7 months ago