Doctor says she feared the worst for ‘abused’ Baby T
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Pretoria - The amount of force used in causing the fractures on Baby T’s body must have been “very high”, a doctor has said.
Dr Julian Smith, a paediatrician, took the stand in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, yesterday in the case of attempted murder and child neglect against Baby T’s parents.
The doctor treated Baby T when she was admitted to hospital for the last time, aged five months, with at least 18 fractures across her body.
The mother, 22, and father, 24, pleaded not guilty to the charges this week.
Smith told Judge Hennie de Vos that when she saw the baby in hospital in July last year, she feared the worst.
The baby was thin, dehydrated, blue in the face and could not breathe. Her body was in shock. When Smith saw the fractures on the X-rays and MRI scan taken of the baby, her concerns grew.
She said that in her nearly two decades as a doctor, she had never seen so many broken bones in such a small infant. She said babies had flexible bones and extreme force must have been used to break them.
Smith said she was so concerned that someone would be wrongly blamed for the baby’s condition that she did an array of tests to determine whether the infant had a medical disorder that caused her bones to break.
“I'm afraid I could find none,” she told the court.
Baby T, who was born on February 1 last year, first landed in hospital when she was two months old.
Earlier this week, Dr Michelle Molletze testified that when she delivered the premature baby she weighed only 1.7kg, and had to remain in hospital for several weeks.
The doctor said that by the time she was discharged, she was healthy and could drink on her own.
Barely two months later, the father phoned her and said the baby had choked on milk and could not breathe. He said he slapped the baby on the back in an effort to get some of the milk out of her mouth.
Molletze said she was worried when she saw the baby, as she was battling to breath and was extremely pale.
A CT scan was done which revealed several rib fractures. Some were old and some new.
The baby was discharged into her grandmother’s care.
When the baby was taken to the same hospital three months later, the parents asked that Molletze not to be called to treat the child.
Smith said she was not told why they did not want Molletze to know that the baby was back in hospital, but she took over the treatment.
During her examination, she saw that the baby had lost a lot of weight and weighed only 4.1kg. She had difficulty breathing and was admitted to the ICU as she was ill.
The baby’s health improved in hospital. Smith said the nurses reported that the baby was drinking “enormous amounts of milk”.
Smith said X-rays revealed at least 18 fractures. Apart from more rib fractures, the other fractures included that of the bone which connects the breastplate to the shoulder, and fractured legs. She said many of the fractures could have been life threatening if the baby’s organs had been punctured.
Baby T also had a blue mark on her chin and soft tissue injuries around her neck.
When she was discharged about a month later into the care of another family member, she was a happy baby and was gaining weight, Smith said.
As the doctor could find no medical reason for the state the infant was in when she was brought to hospital, she reported the matter to the police.
Asked what could have caused some of the fractures, she said the baby may have been swung with force from one side to the other. The injuries to the neck she described as “whiplash”, also from forcefully swinging the baby.
The matter is proceeding.