They were thrilled when they found out they were expecting twin boys, but Christal and Bernard Dreyer’s joy soon turned to sadness when doctors told them only one of their children was healthy.
One of the twins had spina bifida and the couple from Roodepoort in the West Rand were advised to abort the baby because he’d live a life of pain and suffering.
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Christal, who does admin at Dimension Data and her system administrator husband, Bernard (both 40), grappled with their gut-wrenching decision.
They share their story.
When I was about 22 weeks pregnant, we went for a 4D scan to determine the babies’ sex. A foetal specialist discovered one of the twins had a severe form of spina bifida.
The doctor painted a bleak picture for us. He told us Deon, as we’d decided to call him, would not be able to walk, that he'd need round-the-clock care and would have no quality of life. He suggested we abort him. My husband and I were broken. We couldn't speak. We kept crying.
We needed to make the decision quickly as we could only safely abort before 25 weeks. I wanted to know how they’d take the baby out without hurting his twin brother. The doctor told us they’d terminate the baby in my stomach. I would then have to carry him full term until his twin brother was born and then they'd take him out.
We were devastated. But then a friend sent me a Bible verse, Jeremiah 29:11, which says: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. To give you a future, and hope.” That’s when we decided not to abort.
I carried Deon and his brother, Karl, for 37 weeks. Deon was born first and two minutes later Karl came out. Deon was immediately taken to the neonatal intensive care unit. When he was just three days old, he had an operation to close his spine. A few days later a tube was inserted to drain hydrocephalus, which is water in the brain.
He started doing physical therapy when he was a month old to prevent his muscles from becoming stiff and to help him walk. The physiotherapist always said to me, “Look at this one. It won’t be long before he walks.”
When Deon was two-and-a-half years old, he surprised us. One day while I was home, I heard tapping on the tiles.
When I turned the corner into the dining room, it was Deon. He crawled all the way from the living room to the dining room, although he didn’t use his legs. It was more like a leopard crawl. I was ecstatic.
Deon’s development came on in leaps and bounds. Thanks to all his physiotherapy, his legs became stronger and soon he was able to stand, then to walk. He really did defy the odds.
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Life has not been without struggle. His bladder does not function well so every two-and-a-half hours we take him to the bathroom where he uses a urinary catheter that collects urine from his bladder, and he drains it in the toilet. He also has no control over his bowel movements, so he uses a bag with water which is inserted into his rectum to flush out his bowels.
In March, a urinary specialist discovered Deon’s bladder had shrunk because he had never had an empty bladder. For five years none of us knew. This led to spasm, and he’s now on chronic medication because his bladder can only hold 40ml of urine.
In August he’s going to see a specialist who does electrotherapy which helps the brain communicate with the stomach.
Deon is now five and is happy and as healthy as can be expected. He has no neurological problems and attends kindergarten with his twin. He’s a very curious boy who wants to know about everything and anything. Whenever he asks me to pick him up, I tell him, “I prayed for those legs so you could use them.”