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Baby Akshara - now one and a half years old - with her parents, siblings and doctors

Dubai: A pre-term baby born a year and a half ago in Dubai has become a symbol and resilience and hope for both her parents and the doctors who saved her.

She was recently finally declared fit by her doctors who conducted emergency surgery on her and were regularly monitoring her for any neurological or physical deficits owing to her pre-term birth and precarious health.

Against all odds

Considered a miracle baby, Akshara was born at 26 weeks of gestation on January 20, 2020, at Aster Hospital, Ghusais, just when the COVID-19 pandemic was unfolding. Born at such an early stage of gestation, the baby had multiple congenital emergencies. She fought for her life in the three months she was at the Neonatal Intensive care Unit (NICU) of the hospital and later at home.

Akshara, the second child of Indian expats Sreejith Pillai and Manjusha Sreejith, she was conceived after a considerable gap. From the beginning, the pregnancy had been very challenging for the mother and finally she was born in the 26th week, leaving slim chance of survival.

Series of complications

Recounting the challenge, Dr Binoy Nellissery, a specialist neonatologist at Aster Hospital, Qusais, told Gulf News: “Extremely pre-term, this baby was born with premature lungs and extreme respiratory distress. She had to be placed on life support system as she was unable to breathe on her own.”

Barely had the doctors been able to attend to that, when three days later the baby registered a further deterioration in health. Her heart was beating poorly and despite attempts at resuscitation, the progress was poor. The team of doctors attending on the newborn conducted a bedside echocardiography and discovered the baby was suffering from a cardiac tamponade.

Dr Nelliserry said: “A cardiac tamponade is a life- threatening condition as there is an extra fluid build-up around the heart resulting in poor heart beat and low blood pressure. Though we tried to resuscitate the baby, there was no progress.”

He continued: “The baby was in the NICU, and we found that her health had further deteriorated. Her pulse rate and blood pressure levels collapsed.”

Emergency procedure

Since there was little time to wait for the paediatric cardiologist to arrive, Dr Nellissery along with a team of doctors including Dr Sai Srinivas and Dr Sandeep Kuch, specialist paediatricians at the hospital, conducted an emergency procedure to save the life of the baby.

“It was a risky cardiac procedure called pericardiocentesis and we conducted the surgery, draining out the excessive fluids and stabilising her condition under the guidance of an echocardiography,” added Dr Nellissery.

The baby was discharged in April 2020 under regular screening and care of the hospital. Even after discharge, she was fragile and the possibility of developing infections prevailed. She required thorough care, and her neurological and physical developments had to be carefully examined at regular intervals.

Doing fine

After continuous evaluation for over a year, the baby has now grown healthy without suffering any damage to her brain or complications with speech or mobility, which were some of the likely complaints premature babies with health complications are likely to develop. She now is as normal as any child her age with the regular physical and mental milestones, said her doctors. Akshara is doing well and gained weight through the nutrition programme.

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Gratitude for doctors

Sharing their joy and relief on the gift of life granted to their daughter, the Pillais expressed their gratitude. “Akshara is our second baby. We were looking forward to her birth ever since my wife conceived. However, there were several complications during the pregnancy and although she was born pre-term, we continued to pray for her healthy life,” said Sreejith.

“Those sudden dips in her health had devastated us. We are indebted to the doctors at Aster Ghusais, who lost no time in any medical intervention required and saved her life. All throughout these one and a half years, they have supportive and kept us abreast of the progress she was making. Our child is alive and doing well, thanks to the sincere efforts of the doctors. We will always remember the doctors in our daily prayers.”