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A tale of hope: Caring for an extremely premature baby
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A tale of hope: Caring for an extremely premature baby

Parents of an extremely premature baby, recall their harrowing journey, right from the IVF pregnancy struggles to the baby’s long, critical hospital stay and health complications
Rudhvi and her parents with Dr Anand Patil, who has experience treating preemies.
Vinit Kumar and Pariksha Kakade with Dr Anand Patil, who is holding baby Rudhvi in his arms. About 13.4 million preemies were born in 2020, according to a UN study.

When Pariksha Kakade (35) and Vinit Kumar (35), a couple from Bangalore celebrated the first birthday of their daughter Rudhvi recently, apart from the usual celebrations that involve dressing up their baby, inviting close friends and family, decorating and planning baby photoshoots, they decided to do something different. They chose to visit and express gratitude to all the doctors who played significant roles in Rudhvi’s birth and her life.

Rudhvi, who was born after 26 weeks and 5 days of pregnancy, is an extremely premature baby who suffered from several complications. Due to her critical condition, she spent the first few months of her life in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at a hospital.

Dr Anand Patil, consultant pediatrician, NICU, Manipal Hospitals, Bangalore, was one of the doctors that the couple visited. “This was one of the very critical cases we handled. The baby required immediate medical interventions after birth and spent many weeks in the NICU. The day the parents came back to visit me after the baby turned one was remarkable for me as a doctor. It made my day,” he tells Happiest Health.

A difficult pregnancy

For Pariksha, her baby shower was an important rite of passage. After going through two difficult IVF cycles and six months filled with tests and scans to assess the viability of the pregnancy, Pariksha and her husband Vinit Kumar finally felt comfortable telling their family and close friends about the most awaited news to plan a shower.

“The baby shower was truly a fairytale moment for me,” she recalls.

Five days before the baby shower, however, Pariksha, who went to bed feeling excited about the upcoming event and blissful about the pregnancy, suddenly felt a watery discharge gushing out.

I immediately called my doctors who advised me to rush to the hospital. After examining, the doctor said ‘I’m sorry Pariksha, it is not good news.’ Vinit and I were devastated,” she recollects.

Doctors at the private hospital where Pariksha was being treated decided to perform a c-section delivery while she was 24 weeks pregnant.  

Born too early: 67 days spent in the NICU

Little did Pariksha and Vinit know that the most difficult part of their journey was still ahead. While most parents who have a successful delivery get to take their babies home in a day or two, Pariksha and Vinit had to wait 67 long days before they could finally take their baby home from the hospital.

As per a UN study, one in 10 of all births were preterm (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) in 2020. From newborn respiratory distress syndrome to complications involving the heart and kidneys and a higher risk of infections, preemies face a host of issues due to their underdeveloped organs.

Rudhvi had severe breathing difficulties right from birth and was put on ventilator support to help her breathe. “When I first saw her, I couldn’t control my emotions. She looked very frail and very pink. There were so many cannulas on her little hands. I had to step out of the delivery room to cry my eyes out,” says Pariksha.

“We did everything as a team, Vinit and I,” says Pariksha, adding “From 9 am to 7 pm, we would spend time with Rudhvi, performing KMC for her. My husband used up his paternity leaves and his organization also made NICU leaves available for him. We managed this way for 67 days.”

Over the next few weeks, Pariksha and Vinit had to drive down to the NICU during visiting hours every day to see their newborn carrying breastmilk which they had pumped and stored overnight. Practiced kangaroo mother care, a form of skin-to-skin intervention that can help preemies and low birth weight babies get discharged quicker from the hospital.

Preterm birth: A host of complications

At this time, Rudhvi was diagnosed with surfactant deficiency (a condition in newborns that leads to severe newborn respiratory distress syndrome, due to which she required constant oxygen support), retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) (an eye disease common among preemies), and patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) a heart defect.

Pariksha and Vinit remember visiting the NICU on several days — bags fully packed and hoping for their baby to get discharged.

“One complication after the other kept coming up, extending her stay at the hospital,” says Vinit.

“We were waiting for the day all these plugged wires on her would disappear. We kept asking when her food pipe would be taken out. Since it was there all the time, we never really saw her full face. We didn’t know what she looked like without the cannula,” rues Pariksha.

The nurses used to say that she looked like me. One of the nurses, Pavitra, while changing Rudhvi’s food pipe, clicked pictures without any wires. That is when I saw what she looked like.

Even post-discharge, Pariksha and Vinit had to live a cautious life. “We didn’t even kiss our daughter until after she completed six months of age. Everyone in the house wore masks all day and nobody was allowed to touch her without sanitizing their hands,” says Vinit.

A story of hope and resilience

On her first birthday, instead of her name, Rudhvi, we had a banner made that read ‘Happy Birthday Anandi’ — named after the three doctors who played a very important role in her life, Dr Anand Patil (Rudhvi’s NICU doctor), Dr Sangeetha Anand (Pariksha’s IVF specialist), and Dr Anand Vinekar (who treated her eye disease).

Today, Rudhvi is a year-old active baby. “Although she is meeting her milestones a bit late, she has started to roll over and can now stand up with some support,” says Pariksha.

Pariksha says that although what the couple and Rudhvi went through was a harrowing experience, what helped them most was putting faith in the doctors. “The way the doctors empathized with us, the way the nurses updated us on her daily weight and rejoiced with us whenever she showed even the slightest improvement, it gave us a lot of hope and gave us the courage to fight.”

Pariksha now expects their tale to serve as a story of hope and resilience for the millions of other couples going through difficult pregnancies.

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