Durban - Shallcross couple Bibi Ayesha Ally and her husband, Rashid, never thought they would become parents. And when, after 14 years, a pregnancy test proved positive, they just could not believe it.
Another three tests and a blood test showed the same result - and they still thought it was all a mistake.
It was only when the good news was confirmed by the expectant mother’s gynaecologist that they finally accepted their dream was about to come true.
“I had been to a homeopath for a check-up and a detox and I was advised to first get a pregnancy test. Having failed to get pregnant for 14 years, I said there was no chance, but took the advice and was proved wrong,” the delighted mother recalled.
But their excitement at the prospect of parenthood was soon tinged with dread when foetal medicine specialist Dr Ismail Bhorat detected fluid on the back of their unborn baby’s neck: a sign indicating several things, including the possibility of Down syndrome or cardiac abnormality.
They opted for a new, non-invasive antenatal blood test which looks at the unborn baby’s DNA. Six days of worry followed while the sample was sent to the UK for the results, which ruled out Down syndrome.
Their miracle son, Muhammad Bilal, was born at Life Westville Hospital last August and everything went smoothly until he was six weeks old.
“That was when a heart murmur was detected,” his father said.
It was the result of a tiny hole in his heart, between the right and left ventricle.
Without an immediate operation to close up the hole, Bilal’s lungs would be damaged and he would die.
“We were very nervous,” his dad said.
However, since Bilal’s birth, a R20-million paediatric cardiac centre of excellence has been established at the Lenmed eThekwini Hospital and Heart Centre and Bilal was referred there.
The special unit is the only one of its kind in the private sector in KwaZulu-Natal. Previously, patients had to travel to Johannesburg or Cape Town hospitals.
Bilal’s life-saving operation was carried out by paediatric cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Darshan Reddy, the head of the new unit, assisted by Professor Rob Kinsley of the Maboneng Heart Institute at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital in Johannesburg.
“We had a team of 10. There was a lot of duplication as an extra level of safety,” Reddy said.
The two-and-a-half hour operation was a success and yesterday, baby Bilal and his parents were reunited with the team of specialists and nursing staff who played a role in his life-changing procedure.
Bhorat said it was the first time he had seen the Allys smiling.
The local specialists were hosting visiting paediatric cardio-vascular surgeon Professor Richard Ohye of the Mott Children’s Hospital at the Michigan Congenital Heart Centre in America.
Reddy studied at the Michigan heart centre and Ohye described him as “technically, an amazing surgeon to begin with".
"He came with certain skills that set him apart.”