The story of how 'Cherry', India's smallest baby, the size of a palm, survived at a Hyderabad hospital

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018
the story of how
Dr Dinesh Chirla with Cherry

 It was Nikita's fifth pregnancy. She already had lost the four babies to complications during pregnancy and there were complications in this pregnancy too. But it was perhaps her only chance to have a baby.
 
At 24 weeks, an ultrasound revealed that the blood supply to the fetus was severely compromised, and there was not enough amniotic fluid for the baby to survive in the womb.
 
Doctors had no option but to deliver the child. Dr. Dinesh Kumar Chirla, Director, Intensive Care Services at Rainbow Hospitals, Hyderabad formed two teams--one for the newborn and the other one to take care of the mother.
 
The baby was tiny, weighed only 375 grams and 20 cms at the time of birth. She could not breathe on her own as her lungs were not developed enough at that time. Her intestine too was not ready to digest the mother's milk. "We put her on a ventilator and gave her food intravenously. Her veins were so thin we had to be very careful while piercing them to fix the cannula," says Chirla.    
 
The initial 3-4 days post birth, says Chirla, are very crucial as babies are most fragile during this time. Especially, in this case, there were many health challenges like a drop in the oxygen and BP level. Doctors had to find the smallest possible breathing tube to be inserted. Moreover, the baby had a breathing problem. With such complications, the baby was at high risk of bleeding in the brain. Thankfully, it didn't happen.”
 
But on day 5, Cherry had bleeding in her lungs and needed to be shifted to a special ventilator called High-Frequency Oscillation Ventilator. This made her case particularly complicated -- one with multiple problems: jaundice, feeding difficulties, multiple blood transfusion, and chronic lung disease.
 
The six neonatologists in the team took turns to take care of the baby. “We needed to be vigilant. We needed to guard the baby against infection. Every dose of medicine and food was calibrated with precision,” says Chirla.  
 
The baby remained on the ventilator for 108 days before doctors could wean her off the ventilator completely. Now she could accept the feed from the spoon. She weighed over one kilo at the time of discharge. Her proud parents, Nikita and Saurabh, named her ‘cherry’. Cherry is six months old now and is active.
 
"It is difficult to believe that she was born in her 25 weeks. Before her, the smallest baby we had managed at our NICU was of 449 grams. He is six years old now," says Dr Chirla.
 
"I am the happiest to see them grow up normally," says Chirla. 

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