Durban - Two of the critically ill quintuplets born to a Durban woman have died. They were battling to breathe and to cope with the extreme heat and were unable to feed.

Thembelihle Zondi, 34, of uMgungundlovu was six months pregnant when she gave birth to the quintuplets at the Isipingo Medical Towers on Thursday.

Doctors told the family two of the babies were very frail.

The five babies, born at 26 weeks, weighed between 520 and 550 grams and were receiving round-the-clock care from specialists, doctors and nurses.

They were in incubators.

The children’s father, Vusi Zondi, 42, was distraught.

He said the girls died early yesterday morning.

He thanked the hospital for efforts to save his children.

He said his wife was also distressed but they accepted what had happened.

Zondi gave birth by Caesarean section to four girls and a boy on Thursday afternoon at the hospital.

Gynaecologist Dr Sandlasenkosi Zungu said in his 33 years in practice, he could only remember helping out during the birth of quadruplets 15 years ago.

Zungu told the couple of his fears for the two girls and said their fate was in God’s hands.

“Their condition was critical. They were born before time. We had decided to incubate them until they developed fully,” he said, adding the babies were naturally conceived.

Interviewed after their birth Thembelihle could not conceal her excitement.

“I am tired. I wish to drink water. I was shocked thinking about it, but I told myself everything would be fine,” she said.

“I thank my husband for his support. I can’t wait to spend time with them.”

Vusi, the principal of Mvini Primary School in KwaXimba, has four other children.

“I am proud of my wife. This is a blessing from God. I had to leave a principals’ meeting and rush home to bring her to the hospital.”

The Zondis named their quins Lunga (the boy) and Lungelo, Mpumelelo, Nolwazi and Zamaluqa.

According to Dr Thasiga Reddy, who helped with the birth, “the babies were very small. It was difficult getting them out. The boy got bruised but he is fine”.

This is only the fourth recorded quintuplet birth in South Africa. Last year, the Mapokgole quins were born at Steve Biko Academic hospital. A set was born in East London in the 1960s, and another in Kempton Park in the 1980s.

Hospital spokesman Nomfundo Nhlumayo said staff were saddened by the girls’ deaths.

“The whole team worked hard. We were glad everything went according to plan. We were disappointed after receiving the news in the morning,” said Nhlumayo.

Last year a mother from Thembisa, Joburg, lost two babies after giving birth to quintuplets that were also born prematurely. - The Independent on Saturday