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A woman as small as she is a giant – Italy

No mother wants to hear the words ‘You must give birth now, we need to perform an emergency Caesarean’. This is even more true if she has only reached week 28 of pregnancy. The mother in this story tells of her fears and how all the other mothers around her told her not to worry and that her daughter, who weighed only 1070 grams, would grow quickly. Instead there was a diagnosis of bilateral polycystic kidneys (both kidneys affected by the presence of fluid filled cysts) and the necessity for them to be removed and her baby kept alive with peritoneal dialysis. 

Devastated and scared, she knew they were going to be following a difficult path but she was determined not to give up.  Her baby had been fed with donor milk. She says that in those moments she couldn’t do anything even though she knew all about the many benefits of colostrum and breast milk. However, within a short time her milk supply increased considerably and she gives credit for this to a good friend who is an obstetrician and who gave consistently helpful advice. 

The local milk bank was the San Giovanni Rotondo of the “ Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza” – the hospital where her baby was born. One morning they contacted her to let her know that they had freezers full of her milk and would she be interested in finding out about how to become a milk donor. Her response was ‘yes!’ and as she relates, ‘With my agreement began the fantastic world of donation, that until then I didn’t know at all’.  Her story as a donor continues with her describing it as a simple, natural gesture that has no costs but which allowed her not only to help countless children, but also to show solidarity with those mothers who, like her, had their own child in NICU and who, were afflicted with pain and fear and the guilt of leaving their baby.

After six weeks of donating to her local milk bank, she then continued donating in Rome as her baby had been transferred to the “Bambino Gesù” Children’s Hospital to continue receiving specialist treatment.  She remarks that life had deprived her of her sense of normality and that she wanted to be able to recover it. Her strong determination was driven by another strong desire… for her baby to attach to the breast and feed!  She feels it was a mutual desire between her and her baby because on her first attempt at 6 months of age her baby gave her this wonderful gift, making her feel like a mother. In her words, ‘What could be more beautiful than such a wonderful and simple love contact, that doesn’t have so many words, but only emotions?  It’s only when life deprives you of the simplicity of life that you realize how beautiful simplicity is. And also, how beautiful it is to be able to help others’. She concludes ‘And I’ve been able to do it in a very difficult situation. Thank you for making me discover the beautiful world of milk donation’.

As a result of donating 46 litres of milk to the milk bank in Rome, she was given a special award but in fact she donated a similar volume also to the first milk bank. Described by one of the milk bank coordinators as ‘…a woman as small as she is a giant’ and having ‘a special power made up of strength, energy, a capacity to spread greatness and positivity to anyone who touches her’.  Benjamin Franklin’s quote ‘Out of adversity comes opportunity’ comes to mind when hearing how this mother, through her determination, was able to use her situation to discover milk donation and was given the opportunity to help many, many babies, just as her own had been helped in the first few days.

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