27-week preterm baby Dua, born to a COVID-positive comatose expatriate woman at Al Zahra Hospital, Dubai, has survived and has been reunited with her mother. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A 27-week preterm baby, born to a COVID-positive comatose expatriate woman, has survived and has been reunited with her mother. Both mother and baby have returned home from hospital — thanks to the efforts of the doctors at Al Zahra Hospital, Dubai, who achieved this near-impossible.

Pregnant and COVID-positive

Maham Irfan, 29, and Umer Mukthar, 30, newly-wed Pakistani expatriates in Dubai were excited when they discovered that Maham was pregnant, at the beginning of this year. The couple was preparing for the birth of their first baby when Maham tested positive for COVID-19 in her second trimester of pregnancy at 23 weeks, in July.

Admitted to intensive care in second trimester

With every passing day, the pregnancy became extremely challenging for the young woman, whose condition worsened with severe COVID-19 complications. Finally, on August 12, Mukhtar brought his wife to the Emergency section at Al Zahra Hospital and she was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the hospital. Doctors attending to her had to place her on the ventilator and provide medication for cardiac support. The doctors had initially planned to have the baby delivered through a Caesarean section (C-section) by the 28th week of pregnancy. However, it soon became impossible for the baby to remain in her mother’s womb. As Maham turned critical, doctors delivered baby Dua through C-section at 27 weeks.

Three months into coma

Recounting the difficult period, Mukhtar told Gulf News: “I was extremely worried about Maham’s health and the chances of our child’s survival. We were newly-married and were so excited about expecting our first baby. However, her status worried me. I could not believe this was happening to us. We were at the hospital for nearly three months as my wife went into a coma at 25 weeks of pregnancy. What happened was a real miracle and we cannot believe that all three of us are happy and healthy to narrate this story.”

Maham Irfan and Umer Mukthar wed Pakistani expatriates in Dubai, are happy to be reunited with their newborn child. Image Credit: Supplied

Dr Mohammad Khamis Hussein, the critical care specialist at the hospital, explained: “The mother was in a highly critical condition, putting the baby at risk. To ensure the best care for both mother and child, we had to go for an emergency C-section in the ICU on August 25. We were equipped with all the necessary technologies and highly qualified surgeons, leading to a risky but successful procedure.”

Slim chances of survival

Once baby Dua was delivered, she was admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the hospital, where she was required to be on a ventilator for some time. She had all the complications that come with such an extremely low birth weight of just 700 grammes. Mukhtar was able to see his baby only a few hours after the delivery, while the mother continued to be in coma in ICU.

Dr Maged Zakaria, the neonatologist attending to the baby said: “Survival rates of these tiny babies vary, depending upon the kind of interventions a hospital is able to provide. For babies who survive, the earlier they are born, the higher the risk of future complications or ongoing disability. The whole team was working hard to ensure that Dua received all the care she required. She was provided with a multi-faceted support system and a treatment plan dedicated to her. Thankfully, the newborn showed great progress and was discharged in a perfectly healthy condition on November 4.

A joyous reunion

While baby Dua stabilised, her mother too got better and came out of coma, a month after she delivered. However, the doctors took no chances and waited for another six weeks before discharging her from hospital on November 7. The COVID-19 survivor met her beautiful daughter nearly two months after she was born. However, the wait was worth all the trouble as she joyously held baby Dua in her arms when she got back home.

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‘I count my blessings’

A thrilled new mother, Maham just cannot have enough of her baby daughter. She told Gulf News: “After I recovered, I had to learn to talk, walk and train to revive all my basic functions. The team at Al Zahra were not just professionals, but were like family to me. They held me, cried with me, laughed with me and celebrated every small achievement in bringing me back to life. Words cannot express what they have done for me. I cannot express the joy I feel to be a mother and hold this precious child in my arms and be part of the world again.”