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Sometimes everything happens suddenly – Italy

Being born early was just the beginning of this little girl’s problems when she started life. Her story begins when her father first feels his daughter move in his wife’s belly and ends happily but not until after a whole series of ups and downs have been experienced by them all….

‘It’s marvellous to feel the first movements in the mum’s belly, to realise that it is a real life, a wonderful journey. The family begins and relationships magically change. Sometimes everything happens suddenly, other times more slowly and other times without being immediately aware.’

For her mother, everything proceeded well until the 24th week of pregnancy. But then her legs started to swell, her blood pressure rose and protein started to appear in her urine. She was immediately hospitalised and had to stay there for the next 9 weeks whilst her baby grew – but very slowly. And then her condition worsened; she was 33 weeks pregnant and the time had come for her little girl to be born by caesarean section.

Her father takes up the story: ‘The baby’s Apgar scores (new born baby assessments) are good but she is very small (only 1300 grams). The first 3 days switch from normal to unpredictable. Her meconium is slow to appear….’. Thyroid function tests are done and the results lead to a diagnosis of thyroid abnormality to which is soon added a whole raft of additional problems related to her kidneys and renal function and then also sepsis caused by a methicillin resistant strain of Staphylococcus aureus.

Throughout this her mother continued to express and store her milk. The home freezer slowly filled up until finally she was able to feed more and more to her tiny baby. Dad again; ‘Enchantingly she starts to produce dirty nappies but sometimes her tummy is so swollen that it is a cause of concern to the medical team.’ However, by the time she was 3 months old her weight was 2640g, she could finally leave the hospital and go home. She started to feed more and need more milk and the freezer that was so full started to empty because her mother’s milk supply just wasn’t sufficient. Formula milk was started with the immediate result that she struggled to defecate and her tummy started to swell so worryingly that it was necessary to seek the opinion of a paediatric surgeon. The diagnosis was intestinal occlusion or bowel obstruction. This prevents the normal passage of the stools and is very serious. She was admitted to hospital. The examinations suggested Hirschsprung disease which causes the muscles in the bowels to lose their ability to move stools through the intestine by the usual peristaltic action. Surgery and the formation of an ileostomy was considered, prevented in part by her mother managing to increase her milk supply and by twice daily special gentle massage treatments. The return to breastmilk helped to progressively resolve the problem but her mother didn’t have enough milk and following further assessments donor milk was introduced from the ‘Banca Del Latte Umano Donato’. The milk bank staff were reassuring and the overall kindness that was being shown was appreciated by the family.

The donor milk from the milk bank was able to be continued and by the time she was 6 months old she was no longer in need of the massage and started to defecate normally. Furthermore, she grew normally and her parents were happy to watch her blossom as she gained 500 – 700g each month. She was able to start solid foods although the donor milk remained prominent in her diet. Importantly she was a happy baby who ‘has a smile for everyone she meets’. The possible need for a biopsy to confirm or exclude the Hirschsprung diagnosis remained although by the time she was 9 months old she weighed 7kg, was very well and in her father’s caring words ‘she gently touches her mum’s face and smiles’.

5 years later; This happy, healthy little girl didn’t ever need the biopsy and there was no recurrence of the intestinal problems. 


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