Covid lung transplant patient, new mom Mbali, gets second chance
South Africa’s first Covid-19 lung transplant patient and new mother Mbali Mbatha thanks God and Milpark Hospital for saving her life and giving her a second chance.
The 27-year-old new mother from Winchester Hills was greeted with applause from doctors, nurses and hospital staff when she was wheeled out of Milpark Hospital two weeks ago with a three-month-old baby daughter and a newly transplanted lung.
Mbatha’s Covid-19 journey started on November 23 when the ill expectant mother was hospitalised at Netcare Park Lane Hospital in Parktown to safeguard both her and her unborn child. However, by December 1 her condition had deteriorated. The patient’s obstetrician was left with no choice but to deliver her baby at 30 weeks via emergency C-section.
Mbatha said yesterday that she was shocked when the doctor told her that he needed to prepare for a C-section and operate immediately.
“When I realised that I would not be able to carry full term I was devastated. I phoned my husband, Sizwe, who calmed me down and said I must let them take the baby out as it would be best for us,” she said.
The new mother said that the only thing she remembered about her operation was the very cold temperature of the operating theatre.
“I felt so alone because my husband could not be with me. It was a very distressing experience, as I did not even see the baby … I gave birth to my little girl and I passed out,” the mother said.
Pulmonologist intensivist at Milpark Hospital Dr Paul Williams said Mbatha was brought to the hospital shortly after she gave birth as she was in serious danger because both her lungs were affected from top to bottom with pneumonia and she was not extracting oxygen from the air.
Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Martin Sussman added that Mbatha was taken straight into theatre where she was placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, which artificially maintains a supply of oxygen to the brain and other vital organs for patients who require either respiratory or cardiac support, or both.
“While Mbali eventually recovered from Covid-19, her lungs did not recover. One of the complications of Covid-19 is that it sometimes damages the lungs extensively. In Mbali’s case the damage was irreversible. Her only chance of survival was to receive a donor lung,” Sussman said.
Meanwhile, Mbatha said her next memory after delivering her baby was waking up at Milpark Hospital many weeks later.
“Some time after I woke, I was told that I had been in a coma for two months and that I had a lung transplant. In fact, it seemed that there was very little hope I would survive. Had it not been for the exceptional medical care I received and for the lung transplant, I would not be here today,” the mom said.
Mbatha said she was very thankful to be here today and to be given the opportunity to raise her daughter, who was named Kuhle. She added that she was immensely grateful to the doctors and staff of Netcare Park Lane Hospital and Netcare Milpark Hospital.
“I am particularly grateful to the donor and the brave family for the gift of life, which ensured that I was given this second chance,” she said.
The new mother added that her husband was her “pillar of strength and support”.
“He was a constant source of inspiration throughout my recovery, and he kept telling me that I would walk out of the hospital,” she said.
During Mbatha’s time in hospital, baby Kuhle was taken care of by Mbatha’s mother, Christine.
“More than anything, I thank God for saving my life and giving me a second chance at life,” she said.