Abu Dhabi: A baby born weighing just 380 grams in Abu Dhabi has been discharged after 124 days in hospital. He is now in a healthy condition and is thriving.
Baby Mohamed was born at 28 weeks’ gestation and after more than four months of neonatal intensive care, he was sent home. The second child of Sudanese parents Rawan Elbashir, 31, and Abdelsalam Elamin, he was delivered and cared for at NMC Royal Women’s Hospital till he was discharged.
“It all started when my pregnancy was less than 20 weeks. After being seen by the hospital’s foetal medicine expert, I was informed about abnormal uterine blood flow, which could have been the result of pregnancy-induced hypertension and premature delivery,” the baby’s mother Elbashir told Gulf News.
A pharmacist by profession, Elbashir was worried because her firstborn daughter, Lugaine, had also been delivered prematurely at 32 weeks. She and her husband, Elamin, a public relations officer, were worried that the couple might lose their unborn child.
“Because of her previous history of pregnancy-induced hypertension and an emergency Caesarean at 32 weeks, Elbashir was already on medication when she visited us first at 18 weeks’ gestation. We began monitoring her closely and when foetal distress was detected with insufficient blood flow to the uterus and placenta, we had no other option except an emergency Caesarean section,” said Dr Eman Sadek, obstetrics and gynaecology specialist at the hospital.
“He also had respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), anaemia, electrolyte imbalances and intraventricular haemorrhage, which can all be life-threatening. Many infants born this early do not survive,” Dr Sadek said.
On March 19, 2021, Baby Mohamed was delivered weighing just 380 grams, which is considered to be an extremely low birth weight by World Health Organisation (WHO) standards. He was also only 27 centimetres long at birth.
Dr Aditya Rakhecha, head of department and consultant neonatologist at the hospital, then swung into action with his team to give Baby Mohamed a fighting chance at survival. He was screened by a multidisciplinary team of doctors, including cardiologists, ophthalmologists and paediatricians.
“Care for preterm babies requires input from multiple disciplines. In the case of Baby Mohamed, the cardiologist assessed and managed him for patent ductus — a condition in which a newborn has an extra blood vessel before birth and just after birth. This is quite common in extremely premature babies and can affect multiple organs. He was also screened for the immaturity of the retina by an ophthalmologist, as this can cause permanent blindness if not diagnosed and treated on time. He also underwent hernia surgery by the pediatric surgeon,” Dr Rakhecha explained.
“At birth, he only had a feeble heart rate without any spontaneous movement or breathing and needed immediate resuscitation. Following this, Mohamed’s condition improved,” he added.
Low birth weight
The WHO defines low birth weight as babies with birth weight less than 2.5kg. Babies weighing less than 1,500 gms, and extremely low birth weight as babies weighing less than 1,000gm. Baby Mohamed was in this last category.
“He had an incredible journey in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and fought off various complications. He could well be the smallest baby discharged from a private hospital [in the UAE]. At discharge, he weighed only 2.69kilograms,” Dr Rakhecha said.
Around the world, the WHO estimates that 15 million babies are born too early — before 37 weeks’ gestation — every year. A number of factors can contribute to premature births, including maternal age, maternal health, and access to prenatal care. Women who have pregnancies in quick succession are also at risk of giving birth early. Some researchers have even associated the problem with climate change.
A NMC Royal Women’s Hospital spokesperson said that they see about 200 low birth weight babies every year and over the last six years, the facility has successfully cared for more than 150 babies with very low birth weight, as well as 50 babies with extremely low birth weight.
Braving the odds
“I am delighted for little Mohamed and his family. This young fighter braved all odds as his army of doctors, nurses, technicians, and other medical staff stayed focused on their mission of saving his precious life. I am grateful to the parents who were an integral part of this complex multi-disciplinary team delivering hope and care to the baby and most importantly, supporting one another,” said Michael Davis, NMC Healthcare chief executive officer.
“In general, low birth weight babies tend to have a lower cognitive development score. However, the advancement in neonatal and obstetric care have improved cognitive development in low birth weight babies over the years, with latest studies suggesting a twofold increase in the development score in low birth weight babies,” Dr Rakhecha explained.
Elamin said he was tremendously grateful for his son’s health.
“It was an indescribable, incredible feeling. It was amazing and satisfying to watch him grow while he was in the NICU. I waited eagerly to hold him in my arms home and take him home,” he said.
“It was a long journey, but due to Allah’s miracles and mercy, everything went well. I was prepared that Mohamed will stay in NICU for the whole year, but thanks to the excellent team, it all ended much sooner,” Elbashir added.
Dr Sadek advised that women visit their obstetricians regularly during pregnancy.
“A regular antenatal visit can help diagnose such issues early on,” she said.