‘Mir­a­cle baby’ starts long road to a nor­mal life

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - SHEREE BEGA

AS ASH­LEIGH Louw heard her mother Anasta­cia gen­tly urg­ing her to stop cry­ing, the days-old in­fant stopped and she opened her eyes, soothed by the com­fort­ing sound of her mother’s voice.

Louw has had a “very hard” week spent ag­o­nis­ing over the fate of her daugh­ter, who was born last Fri­day with a rare con­gen­i­tal de­fect, pen­tal­logy of Cantrell, that has left her heart partly out­side her ribcage. It is pro­tected only by a thin layer of skin.

But there is hope. At 8am, this morn­ing, Dr Jerome Love­land, a pae­di­atric sur­geon at Milpark Hospi­tal, was due to op­er­ate on Ash­leigh at Chris Hani-Barag­wanath Hospi­tal to re­pair a de­fect in her ster­num, the first of a se­ries of op­er­a­tions in the com­ing months to re­pair de­fects in the ab­domen wall and di­aphragm.

“We feel re­lieved now that she is hav­ing the op­er­a­tion,” said Anasta­cia’s sis­ter, Olivea Louw. “This will pro­tect the heart for the next two months. There are still a lot of things they need to fix be­fore they can move her heart back into her body.

“She is re­ally re­spond­ing to her mom. The fact that she is recog­nis­ing her mom’s voice is amaz­ing. Anasta­cia has had a hard time. She hasn’t closed an eye since Ash­leigh was born.”

Olivea said the baby would be moved to other hos­pi­tals for the other op­er­a­tions. Pae­di­atric ex­perts and spe­cial­ists at Chris Hani Barag­wanath Hospi­tal, where she is in the high­care neo-natal unit, have spent the week de­bat­ing the best course of treat­ment.

“Ash­leigh’s eyes are open and she is touch­ing things. She is mov­ing her hands up and down and we are wor­ried she touches the skin. It’s very thin.”

Anasta­cia, a mother

of three, lives in a one-room shack in El­do­rado Park, with her boyfriend. Grand­mother Fe­lic­ity Louw said she knew her grand­daugh­ter would pull through. “You won’t be­lieve the feel­ing that went right through my body when I first saw her. That was such a shock. When she cries, you can see how fast her heart beats.

“But… She is our beau­ti­ful mir­a­cle child. And we be­lieve she will pull through.

“I be­lieve in that.”

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