Mom Struggles To Keep Son Alive, Other Moms Throw Theirs Away

12 Aug 2014 13:40pm
By Paulus Shiku

SWAKOPMUND, 12 AUG (NAMPA) – The lifetime struggle by the Sagners to keep their son Damian alive should be an inspiration to many parents to fight for the lives of their children, especially in Namibia where baby-dumping is rife.
Damian Sagner was born about one year and nine months ago with a hole in his heart and his main arteries are switched, causing a lack of oxygen in his body – oxygen which is vital for survival.
He was given only 15 years to live by doctors who were treating him.
Roswitha and Adolf Sagner noticed three weeks after Damian’s birth that he was not growing, and three weeks later they were informed of their baby’s heart defect.
Damian is the Sagners’ only child – their miracle child, especially since Roswitha was informed by doctors that she could not conceive, but by God’s grace she fell pregnant and gave birth to Damian at the State hospital in Swakopmund in November 2012.
Narrating their struggles to Nampa at their house in the Vineta suburb of Swakopmund recently, Roswitha said it is heartbreaking to know their son will not be able to live longer than 15 years.
Heartbreaking indeed even for this journalist, knowing that just two weeks ago a baby was found dead and dumped in Windhoek, making it about six dumped babies so far this year. One of these babies was luckily found alive in a rubbish bin in the capital in June this year.
However, there is hope for Damian to live longer if his heart condition is fixed or if he gets a heart transplant.
Upon discovering the hole in Damian’s heart, his parents were informed that their baby needs open-heart surgery to close the hole in his heart and allow it to pump blood and oxygen through his body.
As there were no cardiologists in Namibia who could do the operation at the time, Damian was flown to Johannesburg, South Africa, and underwent his first operation at seven weeks old.
That operation cost about N.dollars 2 million.
“After the operation, the cardiologist called me and explained that the hole was too big. It was impossible to close it, and there was a muscle string growing inside the heart that was very unusual,” Roswitha explained.
Doctors were unable to remove the muscle string because it had already grown into the heart valves.
She said doctors put a little tube between the main arteries, and made an arterial banding to ensure a better mixture of the blood so Damian's oxygen levels would be better.
While in hospital, Roswitha made a further, shocking discovery – her son could no longer move his arms, his eyes were losing sight, and he could not hold his head up straight.
“They (doctors) told me he will not recover, and I had to make a choice - let him die or know he will have to stay in a hospital bed forever. But I refused to give up and let my only son die. I decided to fight until the end,” said the weeping mother.
While in the Intensive Care Unit of that hospital, where they spent nearly seven weeks, Damian was provided with an oxygen machine which supplies oxygen to the body through a 10-metre plastic tube fitted on his nostrils.
Roswitha noted that with determination to keep her son alive, she learned very fast from a neuro-physiotherapist how to work with Damian to enable his body parts to move again.
These exercises indeed helped Damian, her “baby with the heart of a lion” as she refers to him, to move his arms and head properly.
As he was improving, they flew home to make further arrangements for more heart surgeries in an effort to “get things right”.
“Damian loves his oxygen. His body adapted so well that we could take him off the oxygen, but only for a few minutes,” she told this reporter, adding that they have to be very careful to avoid him picking up any type of infections.
Roswitha and Damian returned to Johannesburg in February this year for another open-heart operation, which cost about N.dollars 600 000.
“We found a doctor in America who can also operate on him, but for that we need N.dollars 5 million which is unaffordable for us,” she said looking at Damian who was proudly walking around the house with his oxygen machine.
Roswitha used the opportunity to encourage all parents who find themselves in their situation to have faith and to not give up on saving their babies.
“There will be no one who can take care of Damian alone without my presence. I have used Google for medical information and that is how I managed to bring himto the state he is now,” she told this news agency.
She said a heart transplant could be the solution to allow her boy live longer than 15 years, but there are no heart donors in Namibia and there are no specialists who can do the transplant.
She noted that her hope is to get a donor in South Africa and Europe, where donors are available.
“Another problem with the heart donors is that a person must have the same age and matching genes, and this is always difficult to find,” said Roswitha.
She used the opportunity to thank all those who supported them, and asked those willing to support them to come on board by contacting her on the CARE Damian Sagner page on Facebook.
According to Roswitha, Damian's doctor Silvia Moehrcken said there is no logical explanation for the cause of his condition.
Approached for comment, Acting Regional Director of Health in the //Karas Region, Job Ndile said such an abnormality cannot be linked to specific health problems.
“I think it is called congenital abnormalities. It is very difficult to pinpoint causes, most of the causes are unknown,” he said.
A congenital abnormality is a defect which arrives during the formation of organs, especially the heart.
Ndile explain that some abnormalities can be picked up during pregnancy, but that is done through sophisticated and expensive tests which many people cannot afford.