“What should have been a routine check-up quickly turned into a terrible shock,” says dad Nkululeko.
His wife, Ntombizandile, went in for her routine check-up when she was 32 weeks pregnant, but things took a complete different direction when she got to her consultation and was told she had to be admitted right away.
Nkululeko relived their trauma - and miraculous recovery - when he shared this story in an interview with Parent24.
“This came as a shock,” Nkululeko revealed, “because my wife was completely fine when we went to the gynecologist, or at least that's what we thought.”
The doctor must have spotted something though, and suddenly things took a drastic turn and her blood pressure skyrocketed.
Ntombizandile was rushed to La Verna Hospital in Ladysmith, Kwa- Zulu Natal.
Within hours she could not breathe on her own and the doctors told the frightened couple that Ntombizandile’s lungs were collapsing, before she was taken to intensive care for tests.
At that critical stage of her pregnancy, the doctor’s priority was to stabilise her, Nkululeko says, for her own good but especially for that of their baby boy, Nkululeko Junior.
A risky journey
Three days went by, but tests where still inconclusive and the doctors were worried about her condition.
A decision was made to move her to a hospital with more resources.
However, moving to St Anne’s Hospital came with major problems, Nkululeko told us, as the long drive was risky for a person who could not breathe on her own and it also meant that he would have to travel back and forth from Ladysmith daily.
Adding to this was the fact that the couple had a toddler who needed caring for.
Nkululeko recalls sleeping on the hospital couches with their then three-year-old daughter after he ran out of money for fuel to drive home.
The move to St Anne’s went without hitch and proved worthwhile when further testing revealed Ntombizandile had contracted pneumonia.
She was also bleeding a lot; the baby was in distress and his heart was weakening.
Risking it all
The couple was asked to make a hard decision when doctors informed them that they should consider discontinuing the pregnancy.
“Trying to save both would risk losing both,” Nkululeko said, “and I had to consider that our daughter might grow up without a mother if we took the risk and failed.”
“We could always try to have another baby” he admits thinking to himself at the time.
However Ntombizandile had long decided that she was going to have her baby boy despite the odds.
The risks were worth it, she said, adding that she would rather have lost her own life than that of their first boy.
Nkululeko says he had no choice but to support his wife and he let the doctors know that they were willing to risk it all if it meant the baby would live.
A rush to intensive care
A c-section was their best bet, but the doctors had to stabilize Ntombizandile before they would perform the surgery.
Keeping her blood pressure in check was the problem, and doctors tried for days to stabilise her, without success.
On 13 May, almost two weeks after the ‘routine’ check-up, Ntombizandile insisted that they take the baby out.
She feared that the antibiotics used to treat her were making things worse for her baby.
Doctors agreed, and Nkululeko Olothando was born just a few hours later.
The newborn was unable to breathe on his own and was rushed to intensive care for treatment and monitoring.Junior in intensive care ( Picture supplied by Dad)
Not out of the woods yet
After the surgery though, Ntombizandile slipped into a coma.
While baby Nkululeko fought for his life, his mom was cared for by the staff of St Anne’s.
“The doctors tried to come up with new ways that might encourage Ntombizandile to wake up,” Nkululeko told Parent24.
“They even risked the baby’s recovery by taking him to his mom at the ICU for a skin contact, they put him on her chest but that also did not make a difference at the time,” he revealed.
Ten days later baby Nkululeko was fighting fit and ready to be discharged. But he went home without his mom, as Ntombizandile was still in a coma and unable to breathe on her own.
“One of the nurses made a printout of the baby’s picture and put it next to her bedside,” Nkululeko said, “and a few days later she opened her eyes.”
There was hope
Soon after she woke opened her eyes, Ntombizandile says she turned her head to the side and saw the picture of her son for the first time.
“It was the most rewarding sight and it made me want to fight so I can go home to him,” she says.
Ntombizandile slowly recovered and was finally sent home two weeks later.Nkululeko Olothando is now a healthy 7-year-old boy, and a big brother too.
Ntombizandile was able to have another child, a little girl, and the family is now complete.
“Truly there is always a silver lining in situations where you feel hopeless, you just need to believe,” dad Nkululeko says.
Junior is now a healthy 7-year old (Picture supplied by Dad)
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