Miracle baby: Surgery saves 3-day-old infant from rare defect

Jul 28, 2014, 06:30 IST | Anuradha Varanasi

Scans of his mother months before his birth revealed that he had a congenital intestinal defect; after a three-hour-long surgery and weeks in the NICU, he is finally out of danger

By the time he was born in May, this infant’s parents and doctors were already bracing for the worst. In the months that followed, his parents prayed feverishly for his survival, as he struggled to beat the odds in the Neonatal Intensive care Unit (NICU) of a city hospital.

The baby has been kept in isolation for nearly two months post his surgery and is responding well to treatment
The baby has been kept in isolation for nearly two months post his surgery and is responding well to treatment

Only about 10 days ago, when doctors announced that their plucky two-month-old infant was out of danger, that the ecstatic parents turned their attention to thinking of a name for him.

Doctors predicted trouble when the infant’s mother was just six months pregnant, diagnosing the unborn child with a congenital defect that blocked his intestines in several places.

Three days into his life, he went under the knife in a gruelling three-hour-long surgery, which was followed by weeks of isolation in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), before doctors were confident that he would make it.

The infant, yet to be named, was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease known as jejunal atresia, which is marked by a partial absence of the fold of the stomach membrane, which connects the small intestine to the back wall of the stomach. The condition causes intestinal blockages, with the small intestine twisting around the arteries of the colon.

Dr Satish Sakhalkar, a gynaecologist, diagnosed the congenital defect in the sixth month of pregnancy. Doctors say it is important for expecting mothers to undergo an X-Ray and other scans to detect congenital ailments, which, if found, can be treated in a timely manner and save the infant’s life.

“Following his delivery, we found three major blockages in his intestines, when he was barely three days old. We were prepared for this, as we had diagnosed the condition with a malformation scan, even before his birth,” said Dr Atish Laddad, paediatrician at Kurla’s Kohinoor Hospital. Three days after his birth, the surgery was conducted by Dr Pankaj Shashtri, a paediatric surgeon.

The incidence rate of jejunal atresia in India is only one in about 10,000 live births. “Full-term babies are usually treated for this anatomical defect, but seeing this in a pre-term baby is quite rare. Even after the surgery, his condition was critical, as he was at risk of infection and other complications,” added Dr Laddad.

Portions of the small intestine had to be cut out to remove the blockage, after which it was rejoined. The infant’s stomach took nearly two months to heal and start functioning normally. Doctors shared that he was on IV fluids for 15 days, which is challenging for any infant.

Speaking to mid-day, Anil Pednekar, the boy’s father, said, “Only about 10 days ago did doctors inform us that he is fit to start consuming breast milk, which came as a huge relief for us. He was kept in isolation in the NICU for so long.

Now we can finally spend time with our child.” The Bhandup residents have so far spent Rs 9 lakh on his treatment, having had to shell out approximately R20,000 for each day that he was being treated. “Due to his prolonged treatment, we haven’t managed to name our own son, though he was born on May 30. We are eagerly awaiting his discharge in four or five days,” he added.

Dr Pankaj Shastri, consultant paediatric surgeon at the hospital, said, “The patient was suffering from multiple blockages in the intestines, which is rare. The infant weighed only 1.6 kg at birth, which was another complication.

Since there were three blockages, we had to join two sections of the small intestines with sutures. Due to this, there was a risk of perforation. However, with the limited time we had, the surgery went smoothly.” He added that if the child had not been treated immediately, the defect could have been fatal.

Brave babies who fought the odds

>> In November 2003, a newborn male infant was operated upon by a team of doctors in Advocate Children’s hospital in Illinois, USA, for a rare heart disease called hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), immediately after his delivery. His delivery was also fraught with peril, with his mother going into labour while she was still stuck in heavy traffic.

Despite the hurdles, a life saving emergency surgery was conducted to save the baby, following which he underwent seven more surgeries to treat his heart defect. Ian McDonagh’s case inspired the plot for an entire episode of Grey’s Anatomy, a popular medical television series.

>> In May 2012, a 10-month-old boy born in Washim district in Maharashtra with four legs and two penises, underwent two surgeries in civic-run KEM hospital. The child, Raj Manwar, had a rare genetic disorder known as caudal duplication system.

His parents, who are peasants, brought him to the city, where the child received free treatment. Following the first surgery, his extra legs were successfully removed, while his second penis, which wasn’t fully functional, was removed in another phase of surgery.

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