New life in bleak times

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On April 28, a C-section was conducted on a COVID-19 positive mother in her eight month of pregnancy in a private hospital amidst chaos, uncertainty, and fear. NT BUZZ cheers the team of young doctors and the young parents

DANUSKA DA GAMA | NT BUZZ

Like many expectant parents, the Maliks were eagerly awaiting the arrival of their little one. But then the COVID-19 nightmare began. “My wife was hale and hearty until the domestic help tested COVID-19 positive, and then her family,” recalls Abhishek Malik. To their dismay, the expectant mother (Riha) was also found to be positive and developed a high fever.

 “It wasn’t that serious initially, but later we got scared,” says Abhishek. To make matters worse, a hospital in Panaji area had no beds and the authorities there “seemed complacent about handling the case”.

It was then that the couple knocked at the doors of Mother Care Hospital in Margao where a young team of doctors led by consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician, Sawani Hegde Surlakar, performed a Caesarean section on the 29-year-old COVID-19 positive, first-time pregnant lady.

“Such cases are not uncommon at Goa Medical College. But the couple didn’t want to take the risk of going there due to the COVID-19 cases. And I just couldn’t turn down this case which came to me even though I wasn’t the gynaecologist consulted through the course of pregnancy,” says Surlakar.

And while it was imperative to stabilise the mother, they knew that treating her for COVID-19 would pose a risk to both the mother and baby. “Treating the pneumonia aggressively would have posed danger for the baby so we had to intervene as the timing is very critical to COVID-19,” says Surlakar, adding that they consulted a lot of senior doctors and were well prepared to handle this critical case.

With the government healthcare system being overburdened, this was an opportunity to also give hope to other private practitioners to move forward and assist patients in such times though there would be roadblocks. “The baby wasn’t due for delivery and thus we needed a paediatrician and a neo-natal setup that would accept a baby born through a COVID-19 positive mother,” explains Surlakar.

The medical team that was part of this whole procedure, apart from Surlakar, consisted of consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician, Neeraj Borkar; consultant anaesthetist, Kefas Quadros; operation theatre assistant, Tirthanaka Naik; and consultant radiologist, Prasad Hegde who performed a bedside ultrasound for detection of estimated birth weight of the baby.

During this time, before and after the operation the mother was taken care of by consultant, internal medicine, Aman Prabhugaonkar, and pulmonologist Jagruti Nadkarni for COVID-19.

Post-delivery, the oxygen saturation of the mother did lower a bit, reveals Surlakar, but they had anticipated this. “Also, the initial 48 hours were crucial for the baby,” says Surlakar who discharged the mother the next day.

“I was overjoyed to see my son delivered safely along with my wife who went through a lot of strain, both physically and mentally. Though, my son tested negative, he was shifted to the NICU at Classic Hospital and then after stabilisation, was then shifted to the ICU,” says Malik. The infant weighed 2.2 kilograms and was taken care of by doctors Jeetendra and Suhel Nagarsekar and their team.

“We are eager to have the baby with us, but we have to wait for the test to be redone on my wife, to reunite with our son on Thursday,” says Malik.

The young father now believes that while the government could have handled the COVID-19 situation in a much better way, there’s a need for each of us to take care of ourselves and our families as the cases spike. “We need to be positive and have faith in the doctors, and those who advise us for our good no matter

how much we know, or how confused we are,” he says. Meanwhile, Surlakar states that this experience while being a challenge has now given the team a big boost.

“It’s at least easier when you have some support”

In Delaware, USA, a couple from Goa, Francis Fernandes and Crezel Coelho, both COVID positive gave birth to their firstborn son Warren Zayne on April 16 amidst gestational diabetes and cholestasis. Crezel later put up a post on Instagram explaining the turmoil the two of them went through; all by themselves, sans family and friends.

“It’s at least easier when you have some support. Francis couldn’t get out of the room for 24-hours (as he was COVID positive) and was burning with fever throughout the delivery, taking short naps,” recalls Crezel.

Discharged on the third day, the turmoil did not end there since the couple were still COVID positive. “Neighbours would keep food outside the door for us, as we could not put anyone at risk of the deadly virus,” says Crezel.

Somehow, they had to manage all by themselves until May 2; when Crezel’s parents arrived in the USA, tested negative, and could then help to take care of their grandchild, and their daughter and son-in-law.