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‘It Was Very Distressing’: Little Luke Lucky To Be Home After Being Born With Congenital Pneumonia

New parents Samantha and Johann Pieterse are thanking their lucky stars and the emergency medical services team who revived their baby son Luke after he was born at home, fighting for every breath in his first few minutes of life.

“We had planned for a home birth with our midwife, and all was going well when I went into labor late on the night of Monday, 29 November,” says first-time mother Samantha, a professional nurse who works at a government clinic.

“The following morning, our beautiful son Luke was born. We had no reason to suspect that he would need special care, but when he came into the world, he was really struggling to breathe. He had been born with congenital pneumonia.”

“It was very distressing. His breathing was so labored that we could hear his gasps and the midwife said we needed to call for urgent medical assistance. It was such a shock to me that I collapsed, and they had to call Netcare 911 to send assistance for both of us,” she says.

‘The situation was extremely serious’

Baby Luke was experiencing respiratory distress syndrome, and his lips and fingers were turning blue from lack of oxygen, a condition known as peripheral cyanosis.

“When the caller described the newborn baby’s symptoms and labored breathing, the manager at Netcare 911’s emergency operations center (EOC) recognized that the situation was extremely serious and a Netcare 911 intensive care ambulance, as well as one of our regular ambulances and crews, set off within less than a minute,” says David Stanton, head of clinical and education at Netcare 911.

“Within a very short time of receiving the call, the teams arrived at the Pieterses’ home in Rooihuiskraal to find the baby boy wrapped in a blanket. The paramedics noticed that he wasn’t crying, which is unusual in a newborn and can often be a sign that they are not breathing well on their own,” Stanton adds.

Fortunately, the ICU-equipped ambulance enabled paramedics to place Luke on advanced neonatal ventilation and stabilize him almost immediately.

These ambulances have highly specialized life support equipment and crews, who can provide an intensive care environment for patients at the scene of an incident or accident and during transport to the hospital.

In those first tense moments, father Johann held his son while advanced life support paramedic Richard van der Merwe fitted a special neonatal attachment to the bag-mask ventilator, then later a continuous positive airway pressure [CPAP] device was used to gently inflate Luke’s little lungs and ensure he was getting enough oxygen.

Within minutes of arrival, the ambulance was rushing the ventilated baby to the hospital, accompanied by his father.

The team monitored Luke’s blood oxygen levels and heart rate among other vital checks en route and, by the time they arrived, Luke’s breathing and colour had improved and he was stable.

Meanwhile, Samantha was transported to the hospital in the other ambulance and within a few days in the hospital, both mother and her baby son were well enough to be discharged home.

“Luke’s stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after his birth was, without doubt, shorter than it would otherwise have been,” Stanton says.

“As a family, we would like to say a huge thank you to the amazing Netcare 911 team who came out so quickly to take care of us, and everyone who had a role in getting Luke safely back home to us,” Samantha adds.

“We are overjoyed that little Luke and his parents are all safe and well back at home, and ready to spend their first Christmas together as a family,” Stanton concludes.

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