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Mom who had Covid-19 reunited with baby after thinking her son had died

13 January 2021 - 12:01 By iavan pijoos
Nosipho Nkantini holds her son, Oyena, for the first time weeks after he was born prematurely by emergency caesarean while his mother was unconscious on ventilator support and fighting for her life due to Covid-19.
Nosipho Nkantini holds her son, Oyena, for the first time weeks after he was born prematurely by emergency caesarean while his mother was unconscious on ventilator support and fighting for her life due to Covid-19.
Image: Netcare N1 City Hospital

A Cape Town mother who spent her festive season heartbroken and in despair after she thought her premature baby boy had died in hospital has been reunited with her son, who is alive and well.

Nosipho Nkantini from Eerste River in the Western Cape was overwhelmed to finally meet her baby after her pregnancy journey took a dramatic turn when she contracted Covid-19.

Nkantini, who works as a nurse in the public sector, developed Covid-19 symptoms halfway through her pregnancy in early December.

She said she called a general practitioner who initially did not suspect she had contracted the coronavirus and prescribed antibiotics.

“I went for a pregnancy check-up and suddenly felt very short of breath.

“I had a rapid Covid-19 test and it came back negative. Still I couldn’t breathe. It was terrifying. I couldn’t have X-rays or certain treatments for my symptoms because I was pregnant,” she said.

A second Covid-19 test was done and it came back positive.

Nkantini was transferred to Netcare N1 City Hospital in Goodwood in Cape Town, but on arrival she lost consciousness and had to be placed on a ventilator in the hospital’s “red zone” for Covid-19 patients.

“From then I can’t remember anything until I woke up days later, when I was told  I had suffered complications and my baby had been delivered by emergency C-section.”

Nkantini’s baby was delivered at 25 weeks on December 17 while she was unconscious and on a ventilator fighting for her life.

“They told me my baby is in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), but I was so overwhelmed.

“Apart from the fact that I was still very weak recovering from Covid-19, I previously lost a baby who was delivered at 28 weeks, so I was extremely traumatised imagining this happening again.”

Nkantini was eventually discharged while her son remained in hospital.

Efforts by hospital staff to reach Nkantini failed after they discovered her contact details and her next-of-kin were outdated.

Social worker Ronel Grobler was roped in to track her down.

“We were very concerned about Nosipho, and when all else failed we contacted the local police, who promised to help us with the search.”

Officers from the Kleinvei police station were able to trace Nkantini  and went to her home.

“When the police arrived at my home, I thought they were coming to tell me my baby had died. I could not believe it when they told me my baby boy is fine and waiting for me in the hospital. It was a big relief. Afterwards the police said, ‘We didn’t mean to scare you.’

“At home, I was too scared to phone the hospital because I had convinced myself my baby had died, and I couldn’t bear to have my worst fears confirmed. Christmas without him was terrible. I was so stressed,” she said.

After completing her isolation period for Covid-19, she was reunited with her son for the first time on January 4.

“When they showed me my baby, I was crying because I was so happy. I couldn’t believe it. He is alive.

“It was like a miracle, and I have decided to name him Oyena, which means ‘the one chosen by God’.” 

Dr Ricky Dippenaar, a neonatologist at the hospital, said Nkantini’s baby had a “bit of a stormy course” but had tested negative for Covid-19.

“He has made good progress, is taking full feeds and continues to gain weight.”

Dippenaar said that mothers whose babies need to be cared for in a NICU environment experience “double separation”.

“Double separation is when the mother cannot hold her baby and can no longer feel the baby inside her. Psychologically this is very tough, and in this case it was further compounded by the mother’s history and traumatic Covid-19 experience.”

Nkantini said she was grateful to all the doctors and hospital staff who cared for her baby and reunited them.

“As a health worker myself, I am especially thankful to all who are on the front line of caring for people with Covid-19, and I owe my life to them.”

“This virus moves so fast, and it can have devastating effects. By the time someone in the family becomes sick, often the virus has already infected their loved ones and the people around them. Covid-19 is real, and we must protect each other by following all the precautions.”