A TWO month-old baby born with four legs had a successful operation to remove the two extra limbs by surgeons, following a trip to Cape Town, South Africa recently.
Baby Andy Lupalwezi, from Caprivi, was born with a rare deformity of two extra limbs attached below his stomach on 6 April 2013 and needed a costly operation to remove the limbs.
The infant was taken to the Red Cross Hospital in Cape Town on 7 May and returned on Tuesday evening, accompanied by a local registered nurse and his mother, Ruthy Mutanimiye. Baby Lupalwezi is one of the many patients assisted by the Special Fund of the Ministry of Health and Social Services.
When they arrived from Cape Town on Tuesday, the 25-year-old mother said baby Lupalwezi was in ICU following a nine hour operation but is recovering well. Mutanimiye says she was overjoyed that her baby had finally received the operation that she could otherwise not afford.
Windhoek Central Hospital neonatologist Dr Clarissa Pieper said baby Lupalwezi's case is common in births of conjoined twins and the extra two legs are part of the baby's parasitic twin which was not fully developed during the formation process.
“This is a situation where identical twins are attached together as a result of a twin embryo that does not fully split but forms two babies growing into each other. In this case, the other baby never fully developed,” she explained. Dr Pieper said the baby was also born with one extra bladder and one extra kidney which have now been safely removed. “They operated on him very well and he should fully recover soon,” she said confidently.
Mutanimiye had applied for financial assistance from the ministry's special fund which assists patients in desperate need of urgent but costly treatments which are not undertaken by public hospitals. So far, the fund, which was introduced in 2010, has assisted 116 patients as of September 2010, and baby Lupalwezi is the latest addition.
“The fund was established to assist patients who do not have the means to undergo private treatment. We attend to every application with urgency, and currently, there are no pending application forms,” said the spokesperson of the ministry Ester Paulus.
Paulus said patients who are in need of this type of assistance should go to their nearest health facility where a doctor will assess their condition. “If the condition or disease of the patients requires treatment at a private health facility or health facility outside the country, the doctor will apply for the special fund for the treatment of that patient.”
Paulus said brain tumour operations, separation of conjoined twins, radiation treatment, and kidney transplants are some of the cases that the fund pays for.
A source at the hospital, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that some treatments are costly and can amount to a whooping N$500 000.
Paulus could not confirm or deny the figure, and also declined to comment on how much was spent on baby Lupalwezi's operation. “No amount of money can be measured with saving a life,” was all she could say.
Of the 116 patients, Paulus says 62 were referred to private health facilities, 35 were assisted to access the machine at the dialysis centre and 19 were treated in Cape Town health facilities.