BABY Hope Daniels is held in the air by her mother and father, Dorian and Lesley, as she says goodbye to hospital staff before leaving Netcare Kuils River Hospital after nine months in care. Born at 24 weeks and weighing a mere 300g, and despite being one of the smallest micro-premature babies in terms of weight to have survived in South Africa, she was discharged from hospital in time to celebrate Christmas. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - South Africa’s smallest surviving premature baby, Hope Grace Daniels, is finally home for the first time.

After spending nine months in the neonatal clinic at Netcare Kuils River Hospital, staff on Friday bade a joyous farewell to their “miracle baby”, who is now safe and sound in her family home in Blackheath, for the festive season.

There were smiles and tears as staff formed a guard of honour to wish baby Hope and her parents, Lesley and Dorian Daniels, well on their new journey.

“I have been here so long I feel like I am part of the place,” said Dorian.

She admitted that while she and hubby were excited to take their little soldier home, they were nervous but also confident that the hospital had trained them well to be the best carers for baby Hope, who donned the tiniest graduation outfit for the occasion.

Baby Hope was born on March 19 at 24 weeks and weighed only 300g. She was one of the smallest micro- premature babies to have survived in South Africa. During her time at hospital, tenacious little Hope not only beat the odds but also won the hearts of the doctors, nurses and other staff.

They turned out in their droves, many moved to song, to bid Hope and her family a fond farewell.

“We have been most satisfied with Hope’s neurological, visual and hearing developmental progress.

“She is now growing strong and already has such a strong personality,” said Dr Zaheera Kajee, a neonatologist at the hospital, and who was part of the team responsible for Hope’s care.

Netcare Kuils River Hospital staff bid farewell to miracle baby Hope as she heads home for Christmas. Video: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

“Hope will still require special care and feeding at home, and we will have to keep a close eye on her development and health as she grows,” said Dr Kajee.

Dorian was astonished by her child’s will to survive, which was evident when she was delivered kicking, crying and with her eyes wide open.

Nursing manager Claire Pitt told Weekend Argus that a week after her birth Hope’s weight had fallen to just 285g and Dr Kajee admits she feared for Hope, as the little girl was significantly premature and her organ systems were underdeveloped.

The doctor had the unpleasant task of warning the parents that there was a high risk that Hope may not survive and, if she did, she was likely to face challenges to her development.

Hope, however, had her own ideas and continued to grow.

“My husband, Lesley, and I have been trying to have a baby for the past 10 years, so we have been praying hard for Hope ever since her birth.

“The nine months that Hope has spent in hospital have been exceptionally hard and something of an emotional rollercoaster ride, but we are deeply grateful to have reached a point where she is now ready to come home with us,” said Daniels.

Dr Kajee explains that while Hope now has a good appetite for solids, it has been a challenge to get her onto full oral feeds, because she has been reluctant to feed via a bottle or breast.

Hope will still require feeding via a special pump at home until she can independently feed larger volumes of milk on her own.

Although she is still not taking a bottle, mom is still expressing and Hope is obtaining her milk via a tube feed.

“The team at the hospital have been amazed by Hope’s dogged determination to not only survive, but also to thrive. I think that we all steeled ourselves for the worst, but she went on to overcome most obstacles that such micro-premature babies face,” added Dr Kajee.

According to paediatrician Dr Paul Keating, one of the major problems after the birth was that it was not possible to ventilate such a tiny baby.

“We provided Hope with all of the supportive care we could but with such underdeveloped lungs she had to breathe on her own.

“Hope did this from the start with great aplomb,” he said.

Hope, who now weighs 5kg, already has an immense personality.

“She loves cuddles and loved it when the nurses sang rhymes to her. And, when it came to her milk, we could not be late,” joked a proud Pitt.

Weekend Argus