24-weeks premature baby survives against all odds

Baby born after six years of waiting but parents looking for help to settle hospital bill

Dubai: A baby born prematurely at 24 weeks in August has managed to survive against all odds at a hospital in Dubai and went home on December 27. He weighed 480gm at birth and, with round-the-clock vigilance, now weighs 1.960kg.

The baby’s parents, Eman and Meraj Mohammad, both Syrian nationals, are overwhelmed with joy. “I never thought I would ever enjoy this beautiful moment. My joy at holding my own little baby boy in my arms is indescribable,” said the mother, Eman, 30.

But there is the other reality, a daunting one, facing them: the Dh417,000 bill towards the baby’s treatment expenses at the Latifa Hospital.

Mohammad, who works as a picture frame technician and resides in Ajman, did not have insurance and his residence visa has expired. The couple have no money to foot the hefty bill.

Baby Najib Mohammad, dubbed as the ‘miracle baby’, was conceived after six years of childlessness to the Mohammads and has managed to steer clear of all abnormalities associated with such severely premature babies. While the mother was thrilled to have conceived, she told Gulf News that she was in pain throughout and when she went for consultation to a Ajman clinic, they advised her to get admitted at six months to the Latifa Hospital

Dr Mahmoud Saleh Ehalik, consultant neonatologist and head of the paediatric unit at the hospital, told Gulf News: “The baby was in a breach position and there was foetal distress when the mother came to us. We had no choice but to deliver it via caesarean section and admit him to our Neonatal Intensive Unit (NICU)

Talking about the odds, Dr Javed Habibullah, consultant neonatologist who conducted the C-section, told Gulf News: “This is one of the landmark cases in premature deliveries. Baby Najib is one of the smallest babies to be delivered at our hospital. The last one to survive weighed 450gm. Usually, such severely premature babies have very slim chances of survival as they have neurological abnormalities and bleeding in the brain and their vital organs such as lungs, kidneys and heart have anomalies. This baby managed to skirt all such serious issues and has done exceedingly well to fight back. His brain ultrasound shows he is neurologically fit and that is really important. This case is bound to reinforce prospects of medical tourism.”

Dr El Halik added: “Our NICU ward has 64 beds and 34 state-of-the-art ventilators. The baby was put on Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) which is usually given to all premature babies. TPN is given intravenously to preemies as their gastrointestinal tract is unable to absorb nutrients. TPN delivers a mixture of fluid, electrolytes, sugars, amino acids (protein), vitamins, minerals, and often lipids (fats) into an infant’s vein.”

After four months of NICU stay, his mother Eman was slowly eased into her role as a caregiver at the hospital’s family-oriented centre where new mothers are prepared and trained for two or three days before discharge.

“We ask the mother to come into the NICU and take over the baby’s smallest routines, cleaning, feeding, bathing. She first observes and then takes over. She is expected to do everything for three days before discharge under the watchful eye of the NICU nurses and can ask for help. This empowers the new mother and gives her the confidence to handle the premature baby,” said Dr El Halik.

The hospital is letting the couple go home and are working closely with them to apply to charities and appeal to the generosity of patrons to foot the bill.

Mohammad said: “I am so happy to have my child safe and healthy but fear I will not be able to pay the bills as I do not have a job to support my family. The Almighty has been kind to me so far and I am hopeful,” he said.

Baby Najib’s hospital registration number is 133786811 and those who wish to help him can contact the Latifa Hospital office.

Premature births and insurance

Dubai’s mandatory health insurance provides 30 days’ coverage for a newborn in the Essential Basic Package (EBP).

Every medical plan must provide cover for up to Dh7,000 for normal delivery and Dh10,000 for medically necessary C-sections. The maximum co-payment for maternity coverage has been set at 10 per cent. Newborns must be covered for at least 30 days from birth. The basic package also allows a maximum expenditure of about Dh150,000, so in case a child is born premature, the mother has some support from insurance. However, most insurers still require a waiting period of at least six months before the policyholder can actually use the maternity coverage. In this case, the couple did not have a health insurance as they had a visa from Ajman where health insurance cover is not mandatory so far, hence they are appealing for help and looking towards help from charities.

For parents who have outstanding bills, they can appeal to charities through the Dubai Health Authority’s Mossa’dah Committee which helps work out waivers and donations.

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