An Indian-origin baby, who was born prematurely at 30 weeks and was close to death with a respiratory infection, celebrated her first birthday recently thanks to a pioneering technique by doctors at a UK hospital that helped her breathe.
Reva Malvankar weighed less than three pounds at birth last year and was close to death with a respiratory infection.
Doctors at Evelina London Children’s Hospital and St. George’s Hospital in southwest London decided to employ a treatment never before tried on a baby so small and used a machine to take over her lung function.
It extracted blood from her neck, adding oxygen and removing carbon dioxide before returning it to her groin, giving her lungs a rest, ‘The Times’ reports.
“It was extremely distressing seeing her tiny body hooked up to such a big machine. [But] Reva wouldn’t be alive today without it. I’m eternally grateful,” said her mother Parnika Bhor, who has spoken about the treatment to thank the doctors for saving her daughter’s life.
Reva was born at 30 weeks and spent six weeks in a neonatal ward but was discharged, showing no sign of a serious condition. But after three weeks at home she developed a respiratory infection.
“At first she didn’t seem to be in any major discomfort but her temperature was very low. She then started to become very floppy so we took her to our local A&E [Accident & Emergency,” recalls Bhor.
She was taken to St George’s and spent six days there with no improvement.
“We were told that the respiratory infection was stopping her lungs from working properly and her life was in serious danger. We couldn’t bear the thought of losing Reva. We were completely broken,” the 42-year-old said.
Bhor said the doctors told her that replacing her body’s lung function using extracorporeal membrane oxygenation was Reva’s “only option left” and she was moved to Evelina Hospital in London.
Her condition started to improve after 10 days and doctors reduced her reliance on the oxygenation process, spending a total of two weeks on the machine. She spent a month in her local hospital before returning home and now has follow-up care from specialists at Evelina London.
Dr Jon Lillie, a consultant in paediatric intensive care at Evelina London, told the newspaper: “We are so glad that Reva is thriving and doing well… We are unique in the UK in being able to offer this type of treatment to very small babies. Until now it hadn’t been attempted before as it was assumed that is wasn’t possible.”
“We are very fortunate to have teams who are able to provide pioneering treatment like this. Placing a baby on [the oxygenation machine] is very challenging and requires lots of support from for our doctors, surgeons, nurses, therapists and perfusion team. Without it, Reva wouldn’t have survived.”