How doctors helped Kiiara Louw, born without a fully formed airway, take her first breath
Kiiara was in the womb when she was diagnosed with Congenital High Airway Obstruction Syndrome. Her larynx was not completely formed and her upper airway was sealed at the level of the vocal cords.
Doctors predicted she would not survive a natural delivery because she would not be able to breathe.
Louw was referred to the Red Cross Children’s Hospital’s head of paediatric otolaryngology, Dr Shazia Peer. She and her colleagues opted for an ex utero intrapartum treatment - an advanced and specialised operation involving the creation of an alternative airway.
Called operation on placental support, the procedure would take place during delivery, while Kiiara was connected to her mother by her umbilical cord. If successful, Kiiara would be able to take her first breath.
Peer led a multidisciplinary team of doctors and nurses in preparing for Kiiara’s delivery by caesarean section. Within five minutes of Kiiara’s arrival in the world, Peer performed a tracheostomy to bypass the obstruction and establish a new airway.
Kiiara was kept alive through circulation from the umbilical cord, as if in Louw’s womb. The operation was a success and Kiiara recovered sufficiently to go home.
Six months later, Kiiara was rushed to hospital with severe breathing problems, this time caused by a new discovery - a hole in her heart. She received life-saving surgery to repair the hole.
Kiiara has lived through a lot in her short lifetime, with yet more to come, including definitive airway surgery to reconstruct her vocal cords to allow for speech when she is 3 years old.
The hospital’s Breatheasy Tracheostomy and Ventilation Homecare Programme has proven to be important. It enables children with tracheostomies to breathe easily. The programme is led by specialist nurses who train families in how to manage tracheostomy equipment at home.
Recognising the programme as exemplary, international humanitarian aid organisation Muslim Hands has donated vital equipment that will help the hospital maintain the programme.
At the handover event on Thursday, Children’s Hospital Trust chief executive Chantel Cooper said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have been selected as a beneficiary in Muslim Hands’ programme. We are honoured to be the first and only South African beneficiary, and we know this long-term relationship will have a direct impact on not only the hospital, but especially the children who need the breathing equipment to stay alive in the comfort of their own homes.”
Muslim Hands fund-raising manager Imraan Roomaney said: “Although Muslim Hands is an international organisation that does humanitarian work in several countries, I feel we also have a duty towards serving our fellow South African communities.
“Muslim Hands is involved with assisting local destitute families whose children are receiving medical attention at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, and we feel a need to contribute towards the children’s recovery at the hospital.”
The organisation’s programmes manager, Sheikh Haashim Peck, said: “When we looked for sustainable projects in this country, the hospital was a very good choice.
“It’s one of the most developed hospitals for children in Africa. The hospital itself is a worthwhile ongoing humanitarian project - saving and developing lives. The work that is taking place here really touches the lives of people.” Supplied
* The Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital is a beneficiary of the Cape Town Big Walk.