Windhoek-Last year when Tangi Nuukala was five weeks pregnant she got a rash all over her body.
She had a sore throat and red eyes, which indicated she might have measles but after seeking medical attention the doctor diagnosed her with glandular fever, a type of viral infection that causes fever, sore throat, fatigue and swollen lymph nodes and glands.
“They took blood tests but I never got back the results and the doctor gave me something to apply on my body and the symptoms disappeared,” explained Nuukala.
At the time she had no idea that that would be the beginning of a rocky journey for her and her baby.
At seven months pregnant, Nuukala was told by her doctor that her baby was not receiving enough oxygen through the placenta and she was treated with aspirin.
“At seven months my baby weighed 1.3kg (in the womb),” she said, adding that it was relatively small. Nuukala’s bundle of joy Ndamona Munyama weighed 1.9kg at birth.
That was when all hell broke loose. When her child had to be frequently taken to doctors’ consulting rooms and health facilities, Nuukala learnt that her baby was affected by German measles and toxoplasmosis when she was pregnant.
Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by toxoplasmas, transmitted mainly through undercooked meat, soil or in certain cases faeces. Symptoms of infection generally pass unmarked in adults but can be dangerous to unborn babies.
Furthermore, German measles is most dangerous to an unborn baby during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. It can cause miscarriage, stillbirth or birth defects in unborn babies such as hearing loss and brain damage.
“At six weeks I spotted something white in her eyes and the doctors later confirmed that she had cataracts although they could not understand how,” said Nuukala.
At two months, baby Ndamona had surgery in both eyes to remove the cataracts. Nuukala also noticed that her daughter did not gain much weight.
At three months baby Ndamona weighed 2.4kg and that was when she was diagnosed with irregular heartbeat.
“We were first referred to a specialist but because of costs we had to seek medical attention from state health facilities,” explained Nuukala.
That was when they went to the cardiac unit at Windhoek Central Hospital. It was later discovered that Ndamona had a hole in the heart, which required surgery.
At seven months, baby Ndamona had heart surgery and not long after the surgery doctors discovered she had a blockage in her intestines, causing her to vomit each time she fed.
Baby Ndamona had her third operation on December 23 last year and on December 31 she was discharged.
Nuukala stressed that it is very important for pregnant women to take care of themselves while expecting.
She advised that women should read as much and as wide as possible on pregnancy and various diseases in order to make the right choices and to look out for diseases as soon as symptoms manifest.
A well informed Nuukala stressed that when a pregnant woman contracts German measles, 90 percent of the time the pregnancy is terminated because the baby’s chance of survival is minimal.
And in cases where the baby survives, the baby is likely to suffer from severe deformities, she added. Nuukala said she read extensively on her baby’s condition.
Nuukala’s baby amongst others suffers hearing loss and she now wears glasses as a result of the cataracts.
“There is a big difference now compared to when she was sick,” said a thankful Nuukala. At ten months, baby Ndamona is now receiving treatment from a physiotherapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist and a nutritionist.
“I was devastated when I heard that my child had a heart problem. It was hard for the first two weeks but I got over it because I had to be strong for my daughter. I did not want her to pick up on the negative energy,” Nuukala said.
She added that what kept her strong during her ordeal was her Christian faith.
“My faith in God became so much stronger. God helped me through it. The healing power of God is incredible,” said Nuukala displaying strength of character.
She stressed that researching pregnancy is to the advantage of an expecting mother. “I didn’t know that being around a cat or eating uncooked meat could be life threatening to the life of my unborn baby,” she said, adding that she sometimes ate kapana when she would crave for it.
Furthermore, Nuukala said women confronted with difficult situations should see the positive side.
“Accept what you cannot change and know that there is always hope,” added Nuukala.
She said that people would look at her baby and remark that she is “too small” but being her first baby, the 22-year-old said: “This is the normal baby that I have known.” She also said that she used to have a negative impression about the state.
But she was pleasantly surprised that the health personnel at state hospitals are hard-working and her daughter was treated well for “free”, whereas she would have depleted her medical aid had she been a private patient.