x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

'I just felt for a long time that it was my fault,' mum of preemie says

Weighing 900 grams, baby Ramia developed bleeding on the brain shortly after birth. Coupled with an infection and weak lungs, she was kept on a ventilator for nine weeks.

Samaiya Sakrani with her daughter, 6-month-old Rania, at her villa in Mirdif in Dubai. Pawan Singh/The National
Samaiya Sakrani with her daughter, 6-month-old Rania, at her villa in Mirdif in Dubai. Pawan Singh/The National

"I just went in [to City Hospital in Dubai] feeling sick. From the time when I was admitted to when the doctor told us I had to deliver, we didn't even realise what we were getting into. It was such a shock," said the Pakistani-Canadian expatriate, who has lived in Dubai for four years.

Although happy with the care provided by the doctor and midwife who oversaw the delivery, in the immediate aftermath Mrs Sakrani and her banker husband, Fahad Lyoob, were not offered any specific support regarding premature babies, she said.

"The doctor and midwife were very supportive, and supported me emotionally, but it was 10.30pm on a Friday night [when I delivered], so while I didn't get very specific support as to what a 'preemie' is, I don't blame them either.

"I think what you really need, for me, anyway, is to speak to people who have had premature babies and discuss what they are going through, what happened, et cetera."

Weighing 900 grams, baby Rania developed bleeding on the brain shortly after birth. Coupled with an infection and weak lungs, she was kept on a ventilator for nine weeks.

"I just felt, for a really long time, that it was my fault, that I did something wrong," said Mrs Sakrani.

As well as leaning on her family and friends, the 29-year-old first-time mother found solace in online forums created by parents going through the same experience.

"Our family would say: 'She was born small, she just needs time to grow', but that's not the only thing. The chances of your child having every kind of complication are even higher.

"Sometimes, you just want to speak to someone who would understand where you are coming from."

Although Rania, who is now eight months old but whose corrective age is five months, appears to be developing at the rate she should be, her parents will have to wait until she's two before doctors can determine whether or not she has developed any long-term complications.

Rania left the intensive-care unit after 113 days but the emotional and financial worries for her parents continue, further highlighting the need for more support from hospitals.

The idea of a support group like the one offered by Mrs Settembri is an excellent idea and should branch out farther to reach the families most in need, said Mrs Sakrani.

"We need to make a programme and reach out to the parents currently going through this, because that's the time that's most important."

Mrs Settembri will be out of the country until early February. In the meantime, she has asked people to contact her on bsettemb@hotmail.com or via Skype: belen.settembri.

zalhassani@thenational.ae