Through A Mother’s Eyes: The Journey Of Baby Gavin
BY Alvera Bruwer
Our journey begins on a warm Monday night at 11:15 pm, on the 19th of September 1977. To shorten my labor, I was put on a drip and it didn’t take long and you were born. You weighed 2490 grams and your length was 32 cm.
The hospital staff immediately whisked you away, and I knew then that something was not right. After a while Dr. Stumpff came to me and said that you had no shoulders, your hands were deformed and your eyes were squint, and that it would be better to send you to Tygerberg where they specialize in such cases.
Unbeknown to me he put me on anti-depressants. The next day Aunty Lulu (my godmother) came to see me and said she was glad everything was over, at least you had ten fingers and ten toes. She was not aware of the position at that stage. I said that you did not have ten fingers. She was so shocked on hearing the news, and she was still there and managed to see you when the ambulance arrived to pick you up and take you to Tygerberg.
I was left in a Private ward which I didn’t ask for, as I wanted to be in a General ward. Every time I even put my head out of the door staff and patients disappeared, which made me feel like I had some type of disease.
Then my milk came in and the family visited and comforted me and said that everything would be fine. That Wednesday when Dr. Stumpff visited I said that I wanted to go home, and told him that I would feel better if only I could have a good cry. He said that he would discontinue the anti-depressants. I was then discharged and went home to bed as was instructed to do.
I was suddenly overcome with milk fever. Oh boy, how dreadful! It was cabbage leaves in the bra, tablets and milk down the drain. Your father visited you everyday at Tygerberg and I telephoned everyday. I couldn’t even remember if you had feet or not!
I then made a call to the hospital and asked if I could bring Julian and Vanessa to see you, and they obliged. So we went that Saturday morning.
We arrived at the hospital where the nurse held you down on her knees for Julian and Vanessa to see, while they were looking, out popped one little foot, and it looked normal to me.
I then held you in my arms and fed you. This feeding took about an hour as your suction pads had not developed, and that’s why they fed you via a tube.
YOUR FIRST TRIP HOME
On the 9th of October Tygerberg staff phoned and said we can come and take you home. Vanessa and Julian went out of their brackets because they could not wait for you to come home.
ME, YOU AND TYGERBERG HOSPITA (20TH OCTOBER, 1977)
This is where our love and hate affair with the hospital started. From your very first day there you would go for Physio-, Speech-, and Occupational Therapy; you’d see the eye doctor, Pediatrician, your foot, and hand doctor, as well as a plastic surgeon every time.
For 3 days a week I would get to the hospital at 8 am and leave at 5 pm. We practically lived there; I fed you, changed you, read you stories and played with you in the waiting-room at the hospital.
When you were about 2 months old Dr. Gerricke, who I saw every week said to me; “Well Mrs. Fouche, is you not going to ask me this time?” I did not realize that every time I saw him I was asking him if you were brain damaged.
THAT DAY I REALISED THAT IT DID NOT MATTER ANYMORE, BECAUSE YOU WERE RESPONDING TO ME!
You could not smile at 6 weeks, but you could Laugh Out Loud. (L.O.L)
When you were 1 month old on a Tuesday they would plaster both your feet, then on a Monday I would soak the plaster in vinegar and water and remove it. Then they would replaster them again the next Tuesday. Sometimes you would have little blisters under the plaster. This went on for 9 months, and then on the 20th July 1978 you got your first pair of boots. You also had night boots attached to a bar [Sounds kinky!] I just let you sleep with those on at night.
Physio, Speech, and Occupational Therapy were held every Tuesday and Thursday. At the time I thought what was the use of a month old baby having speech therapy? Well I tell you, she really helped me a lot by telling me about NUK teats and what dummies to use.
Your father was transferred to Port Elizabeth and we went to live there. The hospital in P.E was small and there was no Occupational, Speech, or Physio therapists, so I bought a notebook and pasted pictures of your favourite things (Teddy, Bike, Boots, etc)
I pointed at the pictures and related the words to you constantly all day long. You repeated them to me and I was amazed at your response. The hospital experts had said that, due to your throat being paralysed, like your face, that you’d never be able to speak. How wrong they were, and how powerful God is!
That was the start of you talking. Since then you have never stopped! Haha. You came to recite all the nursery rhymes and by the age of 2 your love of books started and I could not read enough for your liking.
You responded to commands like “Put paper in bin.” And understood questions like “Where is teddy?” If you were asked to do something which you didn’t want to, you said no and you meant it!
By the time you were 18 months old I had to come down to Cape Town to see the doctors and we visited your Speech therapist, Mrs. Cockroft. I asked you to say hello to her and you said; “Hello, how are you?” To say that she was taken aback would be an understatement. She asked you what you were fond of doing and you had this long conversation about your dog Sally, and your favourite books which were the stories of Noddy and Big Ears. She was so amazed and asked me what I did to get you to speak.
* ”Baby” Gavin is currently 31 years old. He still loves books, in fact he has recently had a children’s story published and plans to release his first volume of poetry. Gavin literally talks for a living in the capacity of a Customer-Care Consultant for a well-known cellular service provider and is also an occasional motivational speaker.