Baby Jeremy Tubula: Baby born weighing 400g discharged

Thursday, August 29th, 2019 00:00 |
Baby Jeremy’s parents James Narikae and Catherine Nkune with Hope Obonyo at the Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, yesterday. Photo/PD/Kenna Claude

Lilian Kaivilu

It has been 150 long days for baby Jeremy Tubula, who was born prematurely weighing 400 grammes.

As he sleeps peacefully in his father, James Narikae’s arms, it is evident that his journey to his official “unveiling” has been a long one–—not just for him but his parents, doctors and nurses. 

For the last four months, doctors fought to save the baby whose weight at birth was similar to a loaf of bread or two long bar soaps. The infant, who now weighs 3.5kg, has been kept at the Kenyatta National Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit since April when his mother, Catherine Joy Nkune, gave birth to him at 25 weeks.

Baby Jeremy’s case is one of the medical milestones in Kenya’s health system, as he is the second infant to be born at 400 grammes. Baby Hope Obonyo, who was there yesterday to witness as baby Jeremy was being discharged from hospital, was born at 23 weeks, weighing 400 grammes. 

The smile on the baby Jeremy’s face depicts hope because when he was born his skin was so thin that one could see internal organs.  Although all major organs were intact, doctors had to ensure that he was kept at the right temperature, his delicate skin protected and intravenously fed.

“Establishing the breathing and keeping the baby warm were very difficult. The skin was thin because there was no fat to cover the baby. He was prone to infections generally because of the age,” said Dr Miriam Karanja, neonatologist at KNH.

Feeding, she says, was also a challenge. “We started with intravenous fluids. Such babies often die of low blood sugar in the body and when it came to feeding, it was difficult because the system could not digest food normally. 

Many times, the baby was unable to digest even the mother’s milk. We started with 0.5ml  of the mother’s breast milk but it still did not work. So it was a case of being patient throughout the process,” says Dr Karanja. But today, baby Jeremy feeds normally.

Normal delivery

According to Dr Evanson Kamuri, KNH chief executive officer, the survival rate of such babies is minimal as they rarely come of age. “But the team was able to manage it to a healthy bouncing baby boy. We are happy of this milestone as a hospital,” he said. 

Nkune remembers the journey that culminated in the birth of baby Jeremy on April 1 and says: “I started bleeding on March 22 and called my doctor, Dr Barbara Magoha. She asked me to come directly to the hospital and she told me that I would have a normal delivery.” She had been Catherine’s doctor during the delivery of her first two children who were born with no complications.  

“Towards the end of the 24th week, I gave her an injection to strengthen the lungs of the baby. The following day the contractions increased and at 4.45 pm, the baby was born normally. The mother was strong and kept on saying that God would pull her through,” said Dr Magoha, an obstetrician at KNH.

Lots of encouragements

The mother was shocked when she saw the baby. “When I saw my baby, I screamed. It did not look like a baby. I was even afraid of going to the nursery. The doctors, however, convinced me that the baby was going to survive. Now I can hold the baby without any fear.”

Narikae, a hotelier, said they decided to name the baby Tubula, a Maasai name which means ‘the one who is born to prosper’ and thanked all the people who supported them during the period.  

“We have received a lot of encouragement from family and friends. That has made us feel that we were not alone. It was not easy,” he says.

 As they leave the hospital, they have been advised to be cautious, and if possible, avoid exposing the baby to too many people  for the next two months because he is still delicate and prone to infections. Baby Jeremy’s parents can draw inspiration from the fact that Hope, who was born at the same weight as their baby is now a Grade Three pupil. 

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