A couple from Pretoria are grieving the loss of their five-week-old baby daughter who died in her sleep shortly after South Africa went into lockdown.
A Facebook post with a picture of baby Thalia Opperman on 29 March touched hearts countrywide.
“Thalia, passed away of natural causes this morning,” wrote Thalia’s mom, Sindi Opperman (36), a chiropractor from Pretoria. “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic we will have a small ceremony at home. We ask that you light a candle for Thalia tonight and keep us in your prayers, we really need it during this difficult time.”
Though many were shocked to learn of the baby’s passing and mistakenly thought it had something to do with the Covid-19 pandemic, her parents emphasised that she’d died of natural causes.
Michiel (36), Thalia’s father, also a chiropractor, confirmed to YOU on Tuesday that the novel corona virus had nothing to do with his daughter’s death.
Thalia was born on 21 February and at the time of her passing had been in perfect health, as was everyone in the family. The couple’s eldest daughter, Milan, is three years old.
“We’re waiting on the results [of the autopsy],” an emotional Michiel told YOU. “Everything’s still a mess. We’re having an autopsy done but everything’s really difficult now. No one in our home was ill. We suspect cradle death – perhaps an embolism in her heart or lung.”
Thalia passed away on day three of lockdown.
“Everything was 100%, nothing was wrong. We’d been scheduled to see her paediatrician next week for the regular check-ups. She’d been gaining weight well too,” Michiel says.
The family went to bed as usual on a Saturday night. Michiel, Sindi and Tahlia shared the master bed.
“I’d fed her her last bottle for the night. At 4 or 5am when it was time for another feeding I woke up and noticed the bed was wet. There was blood in the bed,” Michiel says, choking up.
“I woke my wife up. We performed CPR but there was no pulse. She wasn’t breathing. Blood was coming from her mouth. We knew our child was dead,” he describes the trauma of that early Sunday morning.
As he speaks to us, audible in the background is Milan’s little voice.
“She’s watching Frozen,” Michiel tells us on the phone.
“We’re getting counselling in this time. It’s not nice because we can’t have a service for her now. We’ll probably have her cremated but for now, we wait.”
He says if they’re unable to have a state autopsy done during lockdown, they’ll have it done privately. “We want to know why.”