Fezi was 5 months pregnant when her gynae told her that her baby had stopped growing due to insufficient nutrients and blood through Fezi’s placenta. The baby needed to come out, immediately.
She had to be born 4 months early
Fezi had been seeing Dr Judith Carter privately, without medical aid and when she was told that her baby would have to be born 4 months early, she was devastated. This meant that her baby would need to be cared for in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for weeks and cost millions of rands which she simply could not afford.
Dr Carter wrote Fezi a recommendation letter and sent her to Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, saying that its NICU was excellent. Fezi was nervous. “People said mothers get no attention and are treated really badly in government hospitals.”
Because of the recommendation letter, Fezi “jumped the queue”, was admitted and given steroid injections to mature the baby’s lungs. She still had to wait her turn before she saw a doctor and was only given a scan 2 days later – which brought devastating news.
Her baby was unlikely to survive
The doctor explained that because the baby was only 860 grams, due to limited resources and the state’s policy not to admit babies into the NICU if they were born under a kilo, her baby was unlikely to survive.
Fezi remembers: “They were so kind and sympathetic and gave me good counsel. I signed the forms allowing them to cremate the baby and was taken into the labour ward. It was large, private and clean. I had one midwife and was allowed to have a birth partner, but because they believed that the baby would not survive, they were not going to monitor labour.
"I was induced on a drip and the contractions started. They were incredibly painful but I was not given any pain medication. My labour lasted 9 hours and finally my baby was born, breech. The midwife took her away; I had asked not to see her.
"She's going to live, she's still breathing!"
"20 minutes later, I was being cleaned and about to sign my discharge papers, when a midwife ran into the ward and exclaimed, “She’s going to live, she’s still breathing!” I was numb and so confused – she was so very, very tiny. My baby was immediately admitted to the NICU, and I was admitted into the maternity ward.
Staying in the NICU
"My initial fears about government hospitals were laid to rest. I was with 10 other mothers and their babies. The nurses were very kind and sympathetic. The ward was warm, clean, the food was great and there was plenty of hot water and no queues for bathrooms.
"In the NICU, the sisters and specialists explained everything. My baby was strong but needed to get bigger. She spent 4 weeks in an incubator next to the nurses’ station, where she was under constant supervision.
"As soon as she reached 1.2kgs, she was transferred to the kangaroo care ward and I moved back into the hospital. I had to carry her on my chest 24 hours a day, which was exhausting but it was amazing to watch her grow. The nurses and specialists were a great support, explaining the importance of kangaroo care and reminded us that we had to be strong for our babies.
Taking her home
"6 weeks after her birth, I was able to take my baby home. I named her Keanu, which is Hawaiian for “gentle breeze” because she just kept breathing. She is doing really well, and when I am strong enough I want to go back to hospital and show all the NICU nurses and team in the kangaroo care ward how big, strong and beautiful Keanu now is.
"I know that she was given the best possible care she could have received at this hospital."