Zaidee Pillay, who was diagnosed with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, will undergo a third operation this month.
Durban - It is traumatising for any parent to deal with a sick child, and the pain is more than tenfold when you are told your week-old daughter has to undergo complex spinal surgery.

“It has been the toughest six months of our lives having to watch our little baby endure so much pain and suffering. 

"The only thing that keeps us going is her adorable smile and laugh,” said the toddler’s mother, Danielle Pillay, 25, a housewife, of Chatsworth. 

“Our only prayer is to see Zaidee live a full and healthy life.”

Baby Zaidee was diagnosed with the permanent disabling defect, Spina Bifida, and a month after her birth, hydrocephalus, a fluid build-up in the cavities within the brain.

The 6-month-old’s mom and dad, Envir, 25, a driver, are mentally preparing themselves for their daughter’s third surgery later this month.

A shunt, which is a narrow piece of tubing inserted into the brain to drain excess fluid, needs to be changed.

The baby will also undergo surgery to normalise her stool and urine flow, which resulted in her developing a kidney infection.

The parents, who are not on a medical aid, are hoping to raise funds to take their daughter to a specialist at a “good private hospital” and for specialised shoes to assist her to walk.

Danielle discovered there could be a problem with her child after an amniotic fluid test was done 34 weeks into her pregnancy.

“I visited the hospital for a routine check, and the doctor discovered abnormalities. Tests later verified his findings,” she said.

“I was told my baby would not be born normal.”

She was transferred to another government hospital, where her unborn child was diagnosed with Spina Bifida - due to her spine and spinal cord not developing properly, causing a gap in her spine.

Danielle said she was living a nightmare, but mustered the strength to persevere through the rest of her pregnancy.

“At 38 weeks I underwent an emergency caesarean section, and a week later, Zaidee underwent her first surgery to close the gap in her spine. However, things took a turn for the worst.

“During her recovery, she experienced more complications as she developed hydrocephalus. We took her home but were advised to monitor her. Within a month her head swelled from 32 to 43cm.”

Last December, Zaidee underwent her second operation to have a permanent shunt inserted in her head to help drain the fluids. However, after a month the shunt began to swell, and it needed to be changed.

“Her head continued to swell, and she contracted an infection. When we returned to the hospital, we were told the shunt could only be changed after six months. 

"We also learnt she had no feeling from her knees downward, and this caused her feet to drop and could lead to clubbed feet.”

Despite being advised that with the right treatment from a young age Zaidee could walk in the future, Danielle does not have medical aid.

She said specialist shoes cost in the region of R2000 to R3000 a foot and would need to be changed as she grew.

The Pillays have hosted cupcake drives to garner funds and raise awareness on the defect.