JARRAHDALE ’S Sharlene Gratte and her sister Amanda Brindley have spent more time at hospitals than most since they became parents.
Ms Gratte’s son Coopah was born with a tracheoesophageal fistula – an abnormal connection between the esophagus and the trachea – and severe tracheomalacia, which can lead to tracheal collapse, especially when increased airflow is needed.
He was taken to surgery the day he was born and was in the neonatal intensive care unit at Princess Margaret hospital for the first three weeks of his life because he kept having ‘blue episodes’ when his airways collapsed and he couldn’t breathe.
When he was six weeks old, he stopped breathing while Ms Gratte was breastfeeding him and she and husband Chris had to resuscitate him.
“After that, he had an extended stay at Princess Margaret Hospital for four months,” she said.
The paediatric specialist even sought advice from a visiting UK specialist.
“They decided Coopah might benefit from an operation called an aortopexy to lift his aorta into a sling to help take the pressure off his trachea,” she said.
Coopah is now six and a lot better and stronger now.
Ms Brindley has also had a child of her own spend a year of her early life in hospital.
He daughter Darna was born with hip dysplasia, but it was not discovered until the age of two when the toddler had a scan because she looked like she had a curved spine.
Three weeks later, Darna had her first operation. She had six surgeries in a year.
“We had to teach her how to walk again,” Ms Brindley said.
“Now she is running around and back to normal, with a slight limp on one leg.”
Ms Gratte recalled a time during Christmas 2012 when they visited Darna in hospital after an operation and Coopah “stole the limelight”.
“He was very off and he vomited everywhere. He had a blockage and he had to have surgery,” she said.
Ms Brindley said it was tough, but “you just keep going”.
“I don’t think there is any secret. You just do it because you are a mum,” she said.
“We were lucky we had family support. When we do have moments when we are about to break – there is always someone there to pick you up.”