ONDANGWA - There were cheers in the corridors of Ondangwa Private Hospital last Thursday morning as it sent home the tiniest baby it has ever delivered.
At birth, Martin Nakathingo only weighted 600g, way below the 2.5 kg regarded as underweight by the World Health Organisation (WHO). But with all the negative side effects that come with pre-term births, baby Martin was victorious. His mother, Elise Hashipala, was six months pregnant when she was rushed to the theatre to deliver the baby through caesarian section. This was three months pre-term. Had he been born at full term, baby Martin’s birthday would have been February 20. He was however discharged from the hospital on Valentine’s Day at three months old. His weight was 2.1 kg, thanks to the commitment of the medical team and the mother.
“I just started bleeding one day and when I came to the hospital I was told that it was premature rupture of membrane and doctors needed to operate me immediately,” says Hashipala, adding that she was later informed that she had delivered a baby boy. When he was later shown to her, he was so tiny he could hardly fit in the palm of her hands. “At the beginning I was a bit discouraged, but as days went by, I became hopeful as he just kept growing. It was amazing how he grew. One day doctors realised that he was able to breathe on his own and removed him from oxygen,” says Hashipala who could not stop staring at her baby.
Baby Martin’s story is history in the making at this hospital and this has made him an instant celebrity among the nurses, doctors and other hospital staff who could not stop cheering and taking pictures with him. They even organised presents and a cake before they could send him off.
“I’m his hospital grandmother, can you see that he recognises my voice?. He is our miracle baby,” one hospital staff member said as the baby’s face really lit up with a sense of recognition.
Dr Phocas Ngabire who was responsible for Martin’s neonatal care says normally premature babies experience a variety of medical problems ranging from nosocomial infections, lungs-heart problems, bleeding from the brain and eating problems. But for this baby boy, challenges were not as major. “He had an infection and breathing problem, but it all cleared up fast,” said the doctor.
Ngabire added that it is common for preemies to experience difficulties as they grow, and such include neurodevelopmental impairments, but he is not too worried about Martin. “But this guy is a fighter. The way he is growing, I think he is going to be a politician,” Ngabire joked.
Hashipala says apart from the supportive staff members of the hospital, her parents and baby Martin’s father supported her throughout her ordeal. After she recovered from the operation, she was discharged from the hospital and she had to go to the hospital every day to feed her baby.
“We just kept praying, God is indeed great,” says Eunice Hashipala, baby Martin’s grandmother who was also at the hospital to take her grandson home.
In 2015 Ongwediva Medipark delivered Victoria Patemoshela Ndahambelela Akumbi who was only 595g at birth, only five grams lighter than baby Martin. Dr Vincent Wright Luhango, a pediatrician who treated her, told New Era then that normally Victoria’s term of arrival is considered as an “abortion”, as she was too premature. Unlike Martin, baby Victoria went through a series of serious medical conditions, including severe infection, renal failure, pneumonia, and low and high blood pressure. Some veins in her head ruptured, causing her to bleed from the brain and her head swelled severely. However at four months she was declared a healthy baby and got discharged. She weighed 2.5 kilograms.
Before her second birthday which was on February 05, 2017 Victoria, one of the tiniest - if not the tiniest - baby ever to survive premature birth in Namibia took her first step and started to walk.