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Durban - Groundbreaking pinhole surgery conducted on an unborn Durban baby has been successful, and Joel Hayden Ford was born without incident at the uMhlanga Netcare Hospital on Tuesday.
He was operated on by a team of specialists when his mother, Tarryn, 31, was 31 weeks pregnant at the Netcare Parklands Hospital in Durban.
This week he was was delivered by caesarean section when his mom was 38 weeks pregnant – he weighed a healthy 3.32kg.
Foetal specialist Ismail Bhorat said the pinhole surgery on Joel involved inserting a shunt to drain fluid that had been building up in his chest.
“It was the first time the life-saving procedure has been undertaken in KwaZulu-Natal,” Bhorat said.
Hayden Ford, the baby’s dad, said the misery was in the waiting.
“I could not sleep at night. At the time, the surgery was the only choice we had because the child would have been born prematurely. We took the risk,” he said.
Ford, a former Netcare 911 paramedic, said on Wednesday: “Everything went well like the doctors said it would. Thanks to the outstanding doctors… we are able to celebrate the birth of our third child.”
The father said he was “very grateful to everyone who was involved in caring for Tarryn and our miracle baby”.
Bhorat, who practices at uMhlanga Hospital, said hydrothorax, the condition of having fluid in the pleural cavity, which Joel contracted, involved the build-up of fluid between the layers of tissue that lined the lungs and chest.
“The condition occurs in approximately one in 15 000 foetuses. The fluid places pressure on the baby’s chest cavity and can cause breathing problems and prevent the heart from pumping properly.”
According to Bhorat, the condition inhibits the growth of the baby’s lungs and often causes cardiac failure, which leads to death in the womb.
“No fewer than 90 percent of babies who develop the condition die before birth. The medical team therefore had no hesitation in recommending the surgery to the Ford family,” he said.
Describing the day of the birth, Ford recalled that he could not sleep and stood by his wife’s side.
“As a father it is hard because you want to do everything in your power to help.
“I wanted to trade places with my wife and take the pain for her,” he said.
Ford was still in shock on Wednesday, saying the birth had not sunk in. Baby Joel is set to be discharged from hospital next week.
The team comprised the paediatric surgeon, Samad Shaik; anaesthetist Mark van Staden; obstetrician and gynaecologist Carlos Hartmann and foetal specialist Bhorat. - The Mercury