Emotional reunion 50 years after nurse saves abandoned baby

2016-09-22 13:30
Former nurse, Dorothy Schutte (right) who saved a baby from a bin almost 50 years ago, is reunited with the mother of the baby, Hazel McLeish after five decades. The baby, Tammy, was found in a bin at the Ladysmith hospital before she was saved by Schutte. Tammy is now turning 50 and has children of her own, living with her husband in New Zealand.

Former nurse, Dorothy Schutte (right) who saved a baby from a bin almost 50 years ago, is reunited with the mother of the baby, Hazel McLeish after five decades. The baby, Tammy, was found in a bin at the Ladysmith hospital before she was saved by Schutte. Tammy is now turning 50 and has children of her own, living with her husband in New Zealand. (Ian Carbutt)

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Pietermaritzburg - Almost 50 years after a Ladysmith nurse saved the life of a premature baby who had been left for dead in a bin, the family of the now 49-year-old woman have been reunited with the nurse.

After almost five decades of no contact, Hazel McLeish, the mother of baby Tammy, who was saved from death by former nurse Dorothy Schutte, shared an emotional reunion filled with tears, hugs and laughter yesterday.

Schutte, 83, walked with difficulty outside a friend’s Pietermaritzburg home to meet McLeish after almost 50 years.

“You probably don’t remember what I look like,” she said nervously.

“I recognise those kind eyes,” said McLeish, tears pouring down her face as she embraced the retired Schutte.

After several minutes locked in a tight embrace, McLeish handed Schutte a bright bouquet of flowers before the two went inside the house to share their memories of the day little Tammy was saved.

Tammy, now Tammy McCann, has a daughter of her own and has been living in New Zealand with her husband for the last 18 years.

McCann was unable to fly down to meet her “guardian angel” as she is currently not well.

Bin for foetuses

Schutte, who is still recovering from losing her husband last year, recalled the winter’s day at the Ladysmith hospital in 1967 when she scooped a tiny, crying baby from a bin typically used for aborted foetuses.

The former nurse said she was working the night shift when she heard the cries of a baby coming from a bin in the hospital.

“Hazel had gone into labour being only 23 weeks pregnant, which is extremely premature,” said Schutte, who had no children of her own.

“Once Tammy was born, the doctor who had delivered her said she was ‘too premature’ to survive and threw her into a bin in the hospital.

“I heard crying and looked into the bin. She was so small. I reached into the bin and pulled her out and immediately put her into an incubator,” said Schutte.

She said she had just returned from two years in Germany, where she had worked as a nurse in maternity wards, learning new techniques and skills in caring for newborns.

“I used what I had learned in Germany to care for this little girl and did everything in my power to make sure she would live,” she said.

“She was so tiny that we had to use dressings for nappies.”

'Guardian angel'

McLeish said when Tammy was born, the doctor whisked her newborn baby away, saying she would not survive.

“The next morning I discovered this dear soul had taken one look at Tammy and immediately put her into an incubator,” McLeish.

“She saved Tammy’s life and I have always thought of Dorothy as my daughter’s guardian angel,” she said, tears streaming down her face.

Schutte said she left the hospital to work in Vryheid before Tammy was discharged, but often thought of her and McLeish, and wondered where they were.

“When I heard Dorothy’s voice on the phone, it was unbelievable,” said McLeish.

She said Schutte had tracked her down through a cousin on Facebook, and they had made contact again after almost 50 years.

The two pored through photographs from Tammy’s days spent in the hospital as a premature baby, with McLeish also showing Schutte photos of Tammy’s wedding day and her daughter.

“She looks just like Tammy when she was a baby,” said Schutte, looking at the photo of Tammy’s daughter.

McLeish, who has three daughters, the youngest being Tammy, now lives in Umhlanga and plans to keep in contact with Schutte.

“Tammy was so looking forward to meeting her guardian angel,” said McLeish.

“She knows exactly who Dorothy is and that she saved her life, and is planning on sending her a little something,” she said.

Schutte said it was wonderful reuniting with McLeish and hoped she would one day see the little baby she saved from a bin in a lonely ward at the Lady­smith Hospital in 1967.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  good news

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