Four women and a miracle baby

Women band together to save the life of a premature baby

Thursday, August 8 2013

Born at 29 weeks to a mother confined to a wheelchair with osteogenesis imperfecta, a congenital bone disorder, the miracle for baby Kgotso Maketa and his mother Yvonne Maketa did not end there.

Upon birth baby Kgotso weighed only 1,08kg and was suffering from necrotising enterocolitis (NEC), a medical condition where portions of the bowel undergo tissue death. It is the second most common cause of death in premature babies. His fortunes were turned around by the tenacity and commitment of four very special women who would stop at nothing to ensure that he did not become ‘just another statistic.’

His already weakened mother, who had a particularly difficult pregnancy because of her illness, and underdeveloped chest cavity which made it difficult for her to carry her baby to full term, had developed pneumonia. Following the emergency birth of her baby Yvonne was herself fighting for her life in the intensive care unit of the hospital. Feeding her baby was therefore out of the question and little Kgotso had to be fed with milk formula.

When Netcare Garden City Hospital’s lactation consultant Ros Allman noticed a severe deterioration in Kgotso’s condition, she fervently believed his life could be turned around with the aid of donated breast milk. She approached the postnatal ward unit manager, Anne Standing, and together they made a plan which would save baby Kgotso’s life. Together they consulted the newborn’s paediatrician about supplying donor milk to the baby.

Allman then contacted Stasha Jordan, managing director of the South African Breastmilk Reserve (SABR), to do a presentation on the benefits of feeding premature infants with donor breast milk. “She did not hesitate to leave her office in Auckland Park to come and explain the virtues of donor breast milk and its life-altering value in the care of premature infants.”

“We were all convinced by what we heard that day. Quite fortuitously Stasha brought three bottles of donated breast milk from the breast milk bank with her. That very same afternoon Kgotso was put on breast milk and within hours his condition improved. He is now growing like a little champion, weighing a pleasing 1.6kg,” says Standing.

“Being aware of how breast milk can save the lives of seriously compromised babies I realised the urgency to assist baby Kgotso,” says Jordan. “When micro-premature infants (weighing less than 800 grams or being born before 26 weeks gestation) are given donated pasteurised breast milk, the incidence of NEC and death is significantly reduced.”

“In 2012, 1 295 infants were fed by the SABR (at least 1 150 of these being babies in public hospitals) and 1 292 were subsequently discharged from NICUs. Last year Tembisa Hospital, east of Johannesburg, was able to reduce the mortality rate of premature infants with a birth-weight of below 2 kilograms born in the hospital by 19%,” she adds.

Now Anne and Ros, having realised the benefits of donor breast milk first hand, are in the process of opening a SABR corner at Netcare Garden City Hospital for women to donate breast milk which will provide a lifeline to babies in distress. “Having seen how it made a difference in my son’s life I would definitely consider donating milk,” says an ecstatic Yvonne Maketa, who is grateful to the tenacious and committed women of Netcare Garden City Hospital and SABR for going the extra mile to save her son’s life.

“Hearing how Ros, Anne and Stasha went out of their way to save the life of one tiny, miracle baby is what caring and compassion is all about,” says Kerishnie Naiker Netcare Communications Director. “This story bears testimony to the courage and strength that determined women wield in everyday life. With National Women’s Day only days away Netcare pays tribute to the women of South Africa who in some way, through their commitment and caring, are bettering and even saving the lives of others on a daily basis.”

Note to editors

The South African Breast Milk Reserve (SABR) is a non-profit organisation for public benefit that aims to supply donated breast milk to infants who do not have access to their mothers’ milk. Breast milk has been shown to decrease infant mortality and malnutrition, particularly in underdeveloped countries. Last year SABR had 889 women donors and 1 250 micro premature babies received donated breast milk. Netcare has established breast milk banks at nine of its hospitals in support of the SABR’s Feed for Life programme, which seeks to decrease infant mortality and morbidity due to inadequate formula feeding while preventing HIV infection through the avoidance of mixed feeding, namely breastfeeding and substitute feeding, by HIV-positive mothers.


Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare Garden City Hospital
Contact: Martina Nicholson, or Graeme Swinney.
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
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