'Apart from her head she’s perfect'

By Pieter van Zyl
02 February 2017

“She’s my love. She’s my life,” says 23-year-old single mom Melissa Roos.

We’re visiting her in a guest house near Tygerberg Hospital, in Cape Town, where her baby, Nadya (nearly nine months old), will be treated.

PHOTO: Corrie Hansen PHOTO: Corrie Hansen

Little Nadya was born with hydrocephaly. The word is derived from the Greek words “hydro”, meaning water, and “cephalus”, meaning head. As the name suggests, hydrocephaly is a condition where there is an excessive fluid accumulation in the brain.

Although hydrocephaly was once known as “water on the brain”, the “water” is really cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), a clear fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The excessive accumulation of CSF results in the abnormal enlargement of spaces in the brain known as ventricles. The expansion causes potentially harmful pressure on the tissue of the brain.

PHOTO: Corrie Hansen PHOTO: Corrie Hansen

“Apart from her head she’s perfect and beautiful,” Melissa says. Brain scans have shown that her brain appears to be normal.

Little Nadya can’t get enough of her mom’s kisses. When Melissa stops kissing her she presses her face to her mom’s neck. Then you look  beyond her huge head and see her pretty face and delicate body.

Read more: Adorable tot dubbed ‘Baby Hulk’ due to ultra-rare condition that gives her muscle-like appearance

When I hold her carefully with a hand under her head I can feel the drainage tube and notice that her head is heavier than her body. She weighs 10,1kg. The normal weight of a baby of her age is about 6,8 kg.

PHOTO: Corrie Hansen PHOTO: Corrie Hansen

Nadya’s hydrocephaly was diagnosed when her mom was 23 weeks pregnant. One gynaecologist after another in Pretoria, where they live, advised Melissa to have an abortion.

Scans indicated that the baby would be born with a string of problems apart from the hydrocephaly. Her face would be deformed and she would be crippled by spina bifida, where the spine doesn’t develop properly and there are gaps in it.

Read more: Baby girl born with birthmark that makes a streak of her hair snow white – just like her mom

“Just look how beautiful she is. If it weren’t for her heavy head she would be sitting up. She tries repeatedly to do so,” Melissa says and gives her daughter another few kisses. Nadya positively crows with pleasure. “She can already say ‘Granny’, ‘Grandpa’ and ‘Mommy’.

“And she also mumbles ‘love’, says granny Christa Roos, who’s crazy about her first grandchild.

PHOTO: Corrie Hansen PHOTO: Corrie Hansen

The baby’s teeth, which are emerging, can be seen. “Look at her eye teeth” Melissa says. “She’s my little vampire.”

Nadya’s father left Melissa four months after she was born.

Melissa, Nadya and granny Roos travelled from Pretoria to Cape Town – about 1 397 km by train. The journey took more than 24 hours. Because of the danger of additional pressure on Nadya’s brain she couldn’t travel by air.

Read more: The astonishing reason this baby girl was ‘born twice’

“We stayed in our compartment most of the time but there was the odd inquisitive person who came to look at Nadya.”

PHOTO: Corrie Hansen PHOTO: Corrie Hansen

Yes, people stare at her when they’re on the street. “Instead of asking why her head is so big,” Christa says.

Gynaecologists advised Melissa to have an abortion when the condition was diagnosed before birth. One even said, “Not even God can help her.”

But Melissa wasn’t having any of it. “At 23 weeks it’s murder,” she says. “It’s already a baby. And they give it an injection in the heart. And for two weeks I have to go about with her – perhaps dead – in my womb before she can be born.”

Does she regret not having had an abortion? “Not for a minute,” she says. “No way.”

* More information on Nadya Roos is available on the Facebook page “Hulpkreet vir Baba Nadya”.

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