BORN at just 25 weeks and weighing only 395 grams, micro-premature baby Jazeel Hlophe is defying the odds as she grows stronger each day, so much so that she is expected to be discharged from Netcare Clinton Hospital soon after World Prematurity Day, commemorated on November 17 this year.
“Baby Jazeel was born extremely prematurely on June 21 this year, three months ahead of her anticipated due date of October 3,” explains Dr Klaas Mnisi, a neonatologist practising at Netcare Clinton Hospital in Alberton.
“There is still some debate as to whether babies born at a gestational age of between 23 and 25 weeks have a reasonable prospect of survival. However, when you see how well Jazeel is doing, it is most encouraging.
“These days micro-premature babies have a better chance of surviving, and Jazeel is now thriving - she is one of the miracles who show us what is possible,” says Dr Mnisi, who points out that neonatology is a sub-specialisation of paediatrics.
Jazeel’s mother, Helen Sauls of Alberton, had pregnancy-induced hypertension, which led to the baby being born 15 weeks early, given the normal gestation period being 40 weeks.
“I am very excited about the prospect of taking my baby home, but obviously we do not want to rush. She has been in hospital for nearly 150 days and has gained a lot of weight and strength in that time.
“Jazeel now weighs just over 2.2kg and now drinks the whole bottle when I feed her. I am so grateful to Dr Mnisi and the staff of Netcare Clinton Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit [NICU] for taking such good care of my baby,” Helen says.
According to Dr Mnisi, there are no studies about babies who are born as prematurely as baby Jazeel. “She is one of the smallest I’ve heard of, and when the gynaecologist called me into the theatre when she was born, we were most surprised as she weighed less than 400g.
“The fact that she is a little girl gave her a better chance of survival, however, because female micro-prem babies generally tend to do better than male micro-prems.”
One aspect of the highly specialised care baby Jazeel received in the NICU was colostrum from Netcare Ncelisa human milk banks. “Jazeel’s gut was immature due to her premature birth, and giving her colostrum was the best way to prepare her gut for future feeding,” Dr Mnisi notes.
Mothers produce colostrum - also referred to as ‘liquid gold’ owing to its yellowish orange colour and highly beneficial properties - in the first few days after birth. It is highly nutritious and perfectly suits the needs of new-born babies, as well as being a rich source of natural antibodies to provide protection against disease causing bacteria and viruses.
Sr Anina Klut, a shift leader of Netcare Clinton Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, says that baby Jazeel has become a firm favourite with staff, having been in the unit for some four months.
“We have never had such a small baby in our unit and we were all most concerned about her. She has proven to be a little ‘Wonder Woman’ and is growing each day, with lots of tender loving care from her mother.”
Sr Klut explains that the nurses wanted to do something special for baby Jazeel before she is discharged from hospital, and so they set to work making her a miniature ‘Wonder Woman’ super heroine cape and embroidering a Netcare babygrow with the words “Littlest Miracle”.
Speaking ahead of World Prematurity Day on Friday, Dr Mnisi says that the prospects for micropremature babies have improved significantly in recent years. “With resources like donated colostrum becoming available, we are likely to see more miracles like baby Jazeel growing up to be strong and healthy,” he concluded.