“Where is my baby?” Mom’s first words after coming around three weeks after giving birth without her knowledge.
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (15 September 2020) – Thirty-six weeks pregnant when she developed severe COVID-19 complications requiring weeks in intensive care, an Amanzimtoti mother has beaten the odds to be discharged from Netcare Kingsway Hospital to be with her newborn baby.
Sedated and on a ventilator, Ms Nokuthula Gumede fought for her life in the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) for three weeks. During that time, her baby boy had to be delivered by caesarean section on 17 July. Even though she had no memory of her time under sedation, or of the birth of her baby, Ms Gumede’s very first words when she came around from sedation were “Where is my baby?”
“Ms Gumede was in a serious condition and developed several complications, including a deep vein thrombosis [blood clot] in her right leg, during her weeks in ICU, so she made a truly remarkable recovery which the staff at the hospital are all celebrating. In fact, her partner, who says that he would sometimes sit in his car outside the hospital and send her thoughts of strength and courage, considers her survival nothing short of a miracle,” says Netcare Kingsway Hospital general manager, Anna Demetriou.
“When Ms Gumede was taken off ventilation and was brought round, she felt so overwhelmed with everything that had happened, that she was extremely emotional and crying uncontrollably. I think that thoughts of her little baby boy motivated her to recover, and it was indeed special to witness her meeting her precious baby in hospital for the first time after almost a month,” relates Demetriou.
Being pregnant and feeling unwell, Ms Gumede went to Netcare Kingsway Hospital on 13 July 2020 and was immediately admitted for a suspected COVID-19 infection, a diagnosis that was confirmed the following day.
Her treating pulmonologist, Dr Sabeer Abdool Gaffar, says she was coughing and suffering from shortness of breath. X-rays revealed COVID-19-related pneumonia in both lungs, and she was admitted to the hospital’s ICU and placed on a ventilator to support her breathing.
According to Dr Gaffar, Ms Gumede’s condition deteriorated rapidly over the next couple of days. Dr Gaffar, gynaecologist Dr Nitasha Magan, and nephrologist Dr Priyesh Mody consulted and together concluded that the baby would have to be delivered immediately via caesarean section in order to save the mother’s life.
“Even though delivered four weeks early, the little boy thrived under the care of the dedicated maternity and neonatal ICU staff and was showered with love and encouragement until such time as he was discharged from the unit,” relates Demetriou.
“Ms Gumede’s eldest daughter, Anele Samkelisiwe, committed to keeping her little brother well and took him under her wing while her mother was ill. She spent many hours with him in hospital, bonding and getting to know his intricate habits. Confident that her mother would beat the virus, she showed the most wonderful and inspiring commitment to her mother and her little brother.”
Dr Gaffar says that Ms Gumede, was discharged home from hospital on 21 August, after a total of six weeks in hospital, and although she is still weak and undergoing physiotherapy to assist her to walk once more and using a walking stick, she continues to recover strongly. She will remain on a blood-thinning medication for the next six months in order to reduce the risk of her suffering any further blood clots.
“Ms Gumede was extremely ill, and with such an unpredictable initial prognosis, we were deeply concerned about whether she would survive. The fact that she did is in no small part due to the excellent care she received from the nursing staff at the hospital, who should be commended for their considerable efforts during the pandemic. For me personally, it is most rewarding to have been involved in her treatment, and we celebrate her recovery from COVID-19,” adds Dr Gaffar.
“We are pleased to see that the numbers of serious COVID-19 cases are decreasing in our region, and we are now seeing fewer patients. We nevertheless urge the members of the public to remain vigilant and to continue to protect themselves through the use of face masks, social distancing and regular washing of their hands as it is a highly infectious and unpredictable virus,” he observes.
“The medical and nursing team of the neonatal and adult intensive care units and the maternity unit were absolutely amazing and extremely professional. Their support to me was outstanding, and I would like to thank them all for this,” says Ms Gumede’s partner and proud father of their little boy.
Dr Thilo Moodley, a psychiatrist who practices at Netcare Kingsway Hospital, says Ms Gumede suffered severe trauma, anxiety and depression following her experience, which is common in persons recovering from severe COVID-19 related complications.
“COVID-19 can be a life-threatening infection, and many other patients do find that they are traumatised and depressed following hospitalisation and ventilation. For these reasons, we are careful to provide patients with ongoing mental health support while in hospital and for up to six months following their experience,” Dr Moodley observes.
“The Netcare Kingsway Hospital response to the pandemic was holistic from the outset, mental health being incorporated as part of the treatment process to ensure that the possible psychological impact of contracting the disease could be appropriately and promptly managed.”
“Ms Gumede’s strength, courage, fighting spirit and will to live are commendable and that of a true warrior. It was a great honour to have witnessed such a remarkable woman win her battle against COVID-19 and other complications against all odds. We wish this brave mother and her baby all the best going forward,” concludes Demetriou.