While pregnant with her firstborn, Antoni, Marili van Reenen’s gynaecologist went on leave near her due date and, in his absence, Marili was placed under the care of his colleague. She was told to wait for her water to break but when this had not happened by almost 42 weeks gestation, Marili was admitted to hospital and seen by her own gynaecologist. Antoni was born that same day by means of a caesarean section and it was immediately realised that he was struggling to breathe. A decision was made to intubate the infant but too big an intubation tube was erroneously used and little Antoni’s respiratory tract was punctured, causing his lungs to collapse. While transferring Antoni from the theatre, the oxygen tube became disconnected, depriving Antoni of much-needed oxygen. Antoni was transferred the following day to Tygerberg Hospital for the insertion of a trachea tube which would enable him to breathe more easily. Antoni’s parents were tragically bereft of the excitement and joy which Antoni’s birth should have been accompanied by and instead were left feeling overwhelmed by the daunting challenges which awaited them as a family.
So began a gruelling process of travelling to and from the ICU as Antoni recovered, while Marili grieved not being able to take her newborn home with her. The couple were told to come to terms with the fact that Antoni would not lead a normal life and were advised to make arrangements for a place of care for Antoni. Marili and Mauritz instead chose to educate themselves so that, after several months in ICU, they were able to take Antoni home and care for him themselves.
Doctors were astonished at the progress Antoni made, despite his traumatic birth and subsequent recovery. “Our little boy is a fighter!” says Marili. “He has proven his willpower by learning to sit, roll over and push himself up to be able to walk with assistance! Antoni has such a loving nature and warm smile, which immediately attracts people to him. He has become a true inspiration to so many who have taken life for granted or who have been tempted to throw in the towel when faced with too many struggles. Even though it is difficult at times to make peace with what happened, we do believe Antoni was sent to us as part of God’s plan. We need to be patient, no matter how difficult the challenges are. We love Antoni so much and will do anything to make him happy.”