Big brother Llyle, mother Beneline, and father Melvory holding little Ephraim.
Big brother Llyle, mother Beneline, and father Melvory holding little Ephraim.

Baby boy whose internal organs were outside his body is making an amazing recovery

By Shakirah Thebus Time of article published Aug 5, 2021

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Cape Town - His smile and his parents’ beaming faces say it all. Little Ephraim Maleho is a miracle baby – born with his internal organs developing outside his body, but benefiting from advanced neonatal intensive care, he is making an amazing recovery.

Ephraim was born on March 8 through Caesarean section with his intestines and half his liver protruding from his body in a translucent sack.

The condition, known as exomphalos, is a defect in the central abdomen, resulting in a sealed sack outside the body containing some of the abdominal organs, resembling a bubble with the organs clearly visible.

Ephraim spent three months at the Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital for treatment which included the ingenious use of amniotic tissue saved at birth.

The baby’s mother, Beneline Maleho, said her son’s condition was picked up by doctors during her 13-week ultrasound.

“We wondered, how can our child live? Ephraim’s father and I knew there was something special about this child, and even though there were major risks, we would stop at nothing to give him the chance to live.

“I thanked God every day when I opened my eyes and I felt the baby kicking. It was like he was saying, ‘Don’t worry, Mommy, I’m fine’,” said Beneline.

“When he got discharged from the hospital he was three months and a few days old. He was on no treatment; he only had a nasogastric tube. His healing is quite good so far.”

Principal neonatologist at Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital, Dr Ricky Dippenaar, said one of the biggest challenges was that Ephraim’s abdominal cavity had not developed and that his intestines and organs could not simply be moved into their correct position.

Dr Dippenaar used the amniotic sac preserved at birth, and used this for a highly specialised treatment, once the membrane started to break down.

The amniotic sac is a clear tough membrane formed inside the mother’s uterus to encapsulate the growing unborn baby and amniotic fluid.

“It just seemed logical to use the very membrane that protected baby Ephraim inside the womb as a natural barrier,” said Dr Dippenaar.

Another surgery was required after two months with plastic and reconstructive surgeons, to close Ephraim’s abdominal wall, with all his organs in their correct place.

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