In a State where the skewed sex ratio is a reflection on the way the birth of girls is received by many, the very premature birth of “Baby of Sapna” in just her 23{+r}{+d}week of gestation and the subsequent struggle of the doctors and the family to keep her alive and healthy has come as a whiff of fresh air.

The girl, who was born on December 8 in Soni Hospital at Model Town here but was later shifted to nearby Rainbow Hospital ,where she stayed in the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) for nearly 100 days, has been aptly named “Parisha” or the one like a fairy.

For her mother, who teaches in a local school and agriculturist father, she is the cynosure of the eyes “for their first child, the family did everything in their might to ensure her survival,’’ said paediatrician Dr. Girish Arora, who handled the complicated case, which he insists is the first recorded instance in the country of a child surviving after being born prematurely in the 23{+r}{+d}week.

“She could be the youngest (most premature) baby to survive in India. She weighed just 600 grams at birth and would easily fit in the palm of doctors. After more than 100 days in NICU, she is now with her parent and doing well,’’ said Dr. Arora, who has brought this remarkable tale of survival to the notice of the Indian Academy of Paediatricians as well.

But Parisha, who would have only now completed the normal 39 weeks’ gestation period, survived after giving the doctors a lot of scare. “During this time she required life support system (ventilator support) as many as 13 times for a very rare condition exclusive to highly premature babies – called “apnea of prematurity”. Chances of survival of such babies is at the most 10 per cent,’’ said the doctor.

Also, the premature girl was so fragile that it was impossible to put intravenous cannula or tube in her very thin veins for administration of medicines and intravenous fluids. So a central venous access was created to do the same which would work for about seven to eight days. Doing so was itself challenging in such a small baby.

Moreover, in the case of the little girl, Dr. Arora said “her skin was so thin that it would peel off with slightest touch. So a protective plastic cover was wrapped over her entire body for almost a month. She could not digest even small amount of milk for almost 15 days so had to be supported on intravenous fluids and parenteral nutrition, which is supply of vital nutrients while bypassing the digestive tract. And when she did start tolerating milk, she was too weak to swallow it. So she had to be fed milk by a plastic tube going from her mouth directly to her stomach for almost two months.’’

The most troublesome aspect with the premature girl, however, remained the “apnea of prematurity”. “She would simply stop breathing all of a sudden and her heart would stop beating. Had it not been the extra careful and vigilant nurses on duty round the clock, we would have lost the child a long time ago. Each single episode of apnea was life threatening and she required life support systems 13 times for it,’’ recalled Dr. Arora. But, he said, “every time we thought we are going to lose the baby, she would come back from clutches of death to prove us wrong.’’ And glad, he is that she did so. “Now, Parisha is weighing nearly two kg and is taking direct feed from her mother”.

Stating that the little girl is among the youngest baby in India to survive, with the last documented record being of a 24 weeks baby; the longest to have a NICU stay (last documented record being two and half months); and coming through despite the maximum number of repeated ventilator support (13 times), what the attending doctors are most pleased about is that all her vital parameters – vision, hearing, reflexes and mental status are perfectly normal for her age till now.

“We hear of parents in Haryana not wanting a girl child. But in Parisha’s case, her entire family has undergone a lot of trauma over the past four months and yet stood firmly by her. This is a really encouraging sign,’’ he said.