Joy for parents of 'miracle' baby born in Dubai at only 23 weeks

Baby Shaniqua weighed a mere 537g and spent 104 days in hospital but is now living a happy and healthy life at home

Premature baby Shaniqua Eve Mukasa at her parents' home in Dubai and with her mother Winnie and father Edgar. Photo: Supplied.
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The overjoyed mother of a "miracle" baby girl thriving at home after being born at only 23 weeks has urged other parents facing similar challenges never to give up hope.

Shaniqua Eve Mukasa weighed a mere 537g and was given a 50 per cent chance of survival after arriving into the world early in July.

She spent 104 days under the care of doctors at Aster Hospital - Mankhool before being discharged at the end of October.

I didn’t think she would survive
Winnie Atieno Muga, mother

“It was a miracle,” mother Winnie Atieno Muga told The National. "After a lot of prayers, a lot of sleepless nights, my baby is living with us at our home."

Ms Muga, 32, a receptionist at a private company in Dubai, said her daughter was living proof of the power of miracles.

“We are blessed to have her here right now after we were almost hopeless," she said.

After baby Shaniqua's premature birth on July 10, Ms Muga and her husband Edgar Mukasa could not wait to be at home with their daughter after such an emotional roller coaster.

The mother has now recalled the traumatic experience of going to hospital after bleeding and experiencing severe pain, which triggered an early birth.

“I was told I was about to deliver," she said.

“I was only 23 weeks and 6 days into my pregnancy.

“It was a normal birth but I couldn’t see my baby until the next day as she wasn’t crying or breathing and they took her to the intensive care unit. I saw her the next day, inside the incubator.”

The parents were scared as the survival rate for babies born at 23 weeks is about 50 per cent.

“I was shocked when I saw her for the first time," Ms Muga added.

"Her ears and hands were big compared to her body and she had hair all over her body.

"I didn’t think she would survive.”

Mr Mukasa, 40, praised the staff at Aster Hospital – Mankhool as he recalled how the early birth caught the couple off guard.

“I was speechless as it was a rare case,” Mr Mukasa said. "We were not expecting to deliver her in this time and we were not ready.

“With the amazing help of the hospital staff – and our prayers – my baby survived and is living happily with us. She is a fighter.”

'Defying the odds'

As the baby girl's journey began unexpectedly at the hospital, medical professionals were confronted with the daunting task of ensuring her survival.

Dr Santhosh George, paediatrics and neonatology specialist at Aster Hospital – Mankhool, said Shaniqua’s fragile state posed significant challenges for the medical team and the family.

“Baby Shaniqua defied the odds after being born at an exceptionally early gestation of 23 weeks and 6 days, weighing a mere 537g," he told The National.

Shaniqua's case epitomises the critical importance of comprehensive and multidisciplinary teamwork in managing the intricate medical needs of extremely premature infants.

"Extreme premature infants have many challenges with nearly every organ system underdeveloped, particularly the lungs and the brain," Dr George said.

"They are prone to develop life-threatening complications like respiratory distress syndrome, intra-ventricular haemorrhage, necrotising enterocolitis and sepsis.”

But Shaniqua looks like she is in good hands.

“Shaniqua remains neurologically intact and unlikely to have any long-term consequences," Dr George added.

Much like her husband, Ms Muga was full of praise for the medical staff looking after her daughter.

“The hospital and the doctors were amazing," she said.

"Every heartbeat, every breath was closely monitored as doctors and nurses worked tirelessly to provide the critical care necessary for my baby’s survival.

"They kept our hopes high to take our baby home. They changed the situation from a disaster to happiness.”

Staff also made sure Ms Muga was fully prepared for the challenge of looking after a premature baby, when Shaniqua was discharged on October 21.

“First I was scared when she was discharged but today we are privileged to carry this baby.”

The couple said the Kenyan name Shaniqua means "gift of God" and hope she can grow up to share her story to give other parents belief in similar situations.

The baby's mother said: “There is no hopeless situation with a premature baby and our case is an example that they can survive."

Updated: February 17, 2024, 7:13 AM