How Neonatal Jaundice Affected the first hours of my baby’s life

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By Roselyn Dube

Although labour pains were very tense and extreme, this did not diminish the overwhelming joy l had that in a few minutes l would be carrying my bundle of joy. He was our first born, our son who was to be the bearer of my husband’s surname to the following lineages. We were so happy to have him as part of our lives, and l remember vividly how we celebrated the day we got the news that we were expecting.

As his mother, l had made sure that everything was prepared for the day he would arrive on this earth. I had bought plenty clothes and every baby stuff that was essential. The feeling was mutual, and l could feel even with the way he was playing or responding when his father was chatting with him or when l sang to him. I could feel that he also couldn’t wait to be in our arms.

However, what l had not put in mind was the fact that my blood cells and my blood group type had an effect on the health of my unborn baby. I was not aware of all this till the minute l gave birth to my son. I couldn’t wait to have him on my chest the moment he was born, and his father was there to witness the whole event and even cut his umbilical cord. We got to talk to him when he was lying on my chest before they took him for measurements, weighing and other processes and we did not see anything wrong with his health. He was healthy and bouncing like how all new-born babies look.

When they took him for check-ups, the nurse came telling that our son had jaundice. The world stopped for a moment, and l couldn’t imagine my son in that critical state. I started crying, and although my husband tried comforting me, the only thing l was thinking of was how my baby was feeling. He was too young to go through such and to think that was his first hour of living.

The doctor then explained to us that the cause of neonatal jaundice in my son was due to red cell enzyme defects, which in my case was Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency (G6PD). He further explained that this was a rare cause of jaundice in infants, although it was pathological (extreme) at that particular stage which is from onset and less than 24hrs. He also went on to explain other causes of neonatal jaundice which include: Rhesus disease, ABO incompatibility, other blood group incompatibilities (Kell, Duffy, anti – E), and red cell membrane defects (hereditary spherocytosis).

We were very lucky that the illness was noticed early and our son straightway went for Intensive Phototherapy which involves the use of high levels of irradiance delivered to as much of the baby’s surface area as possible. The process usually requires at least 2 banks of phototherapy lights which are special blue fluorescent tubes or specially designed LEDs, or the use of a combination of methods (phototherapy light bank plus biliblanket). Phototherapy is done hourly for first 4 hours and may lead to an elevated isolette temperature. Hence, one should not turn the isolette off, as it is not safe to nurse a baby in an isolette that has been turned off as air no longer circulates. Also during the process, temperature probe should be covered with reflective disc if servo control method is used to monitor temperature. Although it was painful to witness, l was glad that my baby was going to be fine afterwards.

Our son was discharged form phototherapy after 48 hours and we had to attend 2 follow up visits which were between 24 – 72 hours and the second one between 72 – 120 hours. This was not much stressful because those visits were done during our hospital stay. When my baby was now said to be fine, we were then discharged from the hospital and l had the chance to take care of my baby and celebrate his health. He is our blessing and the best gift ever. To those parents who have babies with neonatal jaundice, for treatment they can also opt for exchange transfusion and pharmacological agents.

Expect anything as a mother of a new-born!

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