Anna-Lisa Paul and Bobie-Lee Dixon
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Sad day for sextuplets as baby boy dies (with CNC3 video)
One of T&T’s first sextuplets died on Saturday at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope, after fighting for survival with the help of hospital ventilators for almost a month. According to sources at the hospital, baby number one died early Saturday morning from severe respiratory problems and gastro-intestinal bleeding associated with premature births. The boy had been critically ill and remained on a ventilator even after his two brothers and three sisters began breathing on their own.
“This was the baby that was critically ill and the parents were counselled from birth and understood that his chance of survival was slim,” a hospital source said. The parents, Kieron Cummings and Petra Lee Foon, are reported to be coming to terms with their loss. A relative of the family, in a brief e-mail to the media, stated: “It is with deep sadness that the Cummings and Lee Foon inform you that Kaylan Nasir Lee Foon Cummings, the couple’s firstborn, passed away on Saturday, 30 March, 2013. His brothers and sisters continue to do well and our prayers remain strong for their progress.”
The parents were told by hospital staff on Friday that Kaylan was not doing well. Even though they knew his prognosis was poor they still hoped and prayed for the best. Three of the surviving babies are feeding fully on their own—feeding until they are full—and two more were scheduled to begin yesterday. The babies, first sextuplets in T&T and the Caribbean, were born to parents Kieron Cummings and Petra Lee Foon at 31 weeks gestation, on March 4. It took a team of 18 doctors three minutes to deliver the babies by caesarean section. The infants were immediately placed in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit at the hospital.
Lee Foon remained at the hospital until March 9, when she was allowed to go home. In a T&T Guardian interview on March 10, Dr Afraz Ali, an obstetrician/ gynaecologist who had been part of the team to deliver the babies, said the infants would need to be carefully monitored and observed up until the age of five. He said respiratory and developmental problems are common with premature births up until the age of five.
“Because of the stresses the babies undergo immediately after delivery in terms of neonatal care...remember a big part of that is respiratory problems and with respiratory problems you have to be concerned about how the brain is affected by it and as a result of that you have to monitor these babies for prolonged periods of time,” he said. He told the T&T Guardian it could take up to three to five years to see how the babies develop and how they achieve the milestones a full-term baby would achieve.
President of the Medical Practitioners Association of T&T (MPATT) Shehenaz Mohammed yesterday confirmed that one of the babies had passed away. Mohammed offered condolences to the parents and grandparents of the six babies. She said the other babies were doing well. Asked when they would be allowed to go home to their parents, she could not give a definite date. “Premature babies can be discharged after they have passed the 34-week period.”
The birth of the T&T sextuplets brought to 181 the number known to have been born in the world.
According to Wikipedia, the first surviving set of sextuplets was born in South Africa in 1974. The first surviving set of sextuplets from the United States were the Dilley sextuplets born in 1993, often referred to as the “Dilley Six Pack.” Very few incidences of spontaneous conception of sextuplets have been reported—nearly all of the sextuplet births in the last 30 years were the result of fertility enhancements such as ovulation-stimulating drugs.
Health risks for multiple babies
The greater the number of babies in the womb, the smaller they will be and low birthweight brings a whole range of problems. Respiratory distress syndrome is common. Tiny babies need treatment with surfactant, a protein that prevents the alveoli—tiny air sacs in the lungs—from collapsing. They also need oxygen and a ventilator to breathe until their lungs are mature enough to take over the job.
Bleeding in the brain in the first days of life can happen, although most bleeds are mild and resolve themselves with few or no lasting problems. If they are more severe, they can put pressure on the brain, which surgeons relieve by inserting a tube to drain off fluid.
Heart problems are common in tiny premature babies. A large artery called the ductus arteriosus, which exists to allow blood to bypass the lungs while the baby is in the womb, can fail to close after birth. A problem with the intestines called necrotising enterocolitis can develop in the weeks after birth. It makes it hard to feed the baby and causes swelling of the abdomen. Babies are given antibiotics and fed through an IV.