‘I am very lucky to be alive’

2017-08-07 12:59
Lee-Anne Bowman was hailed as a ‘wonder baby’, being the smallest baby ever born in South Africa on the date of her birth, April 4, 1971. She was born three months premature at 24 weeks and weighed just 623 grams. She was given a one percent chance of survival. Today she is a mother herself. INSET: Lee-Anne Bowman was the smallest baby in South Africa when she was born weighing 623 grams. She was just 28?cm long.

Lee-Anne Bowman was hailed as a ‘wonder baby’, being the smallest baby ever born in South Africa on the date of her birth, April 4, 1971. She was born three months premature at 24 weeks and weighed just 623 grams. She was given a one percent chance of survival. Today she is a mother herself. INSET: Lee-Anne Bowman was the smallest baby in South Africa when she was born weighing 623 grams. She was just 28?cm long. (Ian Carbutt/Supplied)

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Pietermaritzburg mother-of-two Lee-Anne Bowman fully appreciates the value of human life.

This is because Lee-Anne, the daughter of Beryl and the late Roly Rautenbach, knows she is very lucky to be alive herself.

When she was born prematurely at just 24 weeks into her mother’s pregnancy on April 4, 1971, the doctors at Grey’s Hospital gave her a one percent chance of survival.

The tiny baby girl was only 28 centimetres long and weighed in at 623 grams. She was hailed at the time as the smallest baby to be born in South Africa.

When her mother suffered a “miscarriage” while already in hospital due to a tricky pregnancy, the baby girl was placed in a stainless steel dish and left on a counter since hospital staff believed she had been stillborn.

“I can’t say exactly how it happened because my mother can’t even remember all the details but basically I wasn’t making any sound at first. Then I started to make a noise and blow bubbles and suddenly started to cry. That’s when the staff realised that I was alive and they rushed me to an incubator and put me in an incubator together with another baby at first,” says Lee-Anne.

She said she also had to have blood transfusions and was fed intravenously via a tube in her nose.

She gingerly fingers a tiny “bald” patch on her head caused by the drip laughing that the experience has left her “permanently scarred”.

After three months in an incubator, Lee-Anne’s mother was finally allowed to take her home.

Apparently babies are only considered viable when they reach at least 28 weeks. “I was still considered to be just a foetus at birth,” says Lee-Anne.

Lee-Anne has a stash of articles written about the “wonder baby” including a Witness poster coinciding with her discharge from Grey’s Hospital on July 17, 1971.

“According to my mother I was only supposed to have been born on July 16, the day before I was released from hospital to go home.”

From a cardboard box, Lee-Anne pulls out an array of newspaper and magazine articles, including one published in Living and Loving, detailing the story of her miraculous survival and subsequent landmarks in her life such as the day she turned 21, and the day she gave birth to her eldest daughter, Hannah.

Petite Lee-Anne is herself now the proud mother of two daughters — Hannah (20) and Heather (18), who was also born at Grey’s.

She says she spent the first few years of her childhood in Pietermaritzburg, but from the age of about five years she moved to the Karoo due to her family circumstances and thereafter lived in “many different places”.

She returned to Pietermaritzburg in 1991 to live with her father, who by then was divorced from her mother.

Lee-Anne is a familiar figure at the Pietermaritzburg magistrate’s and regional courts where she started working as a stenographer in 1992. Twenty-five years later she is still working in the administration department in the appeals section.

Lee-Anne says while at school she was a keen athlete and “good at 100 metre and 200 metre sprints”.

She was “always one of the shortest” girls at school and today is 1,55 metres tall. Currently her passion lies in more “homely” pursuits such as cooking, baking, knitting and crocheting.

Read more on:    miracle baby  |  pietermaritzburg  |  premamture baby

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