Analía Bouter and her husband Fabián Verón have been through an ordeal that few parents have ever experienced, and which continues still. Of modest means as Fabián is currently unemployed, they live with their four children aged between 12 and 5 in Resistencia, the provincial capital of El Chaco, in northern Argentina, and at the time of this story – last March - she was six months into her fifth pregnancy.
On Friday 30th March she sensed that all was not going well and later in the day her waters broke. Fabián took her to the Perrando Hospital in Resistencia, where she was told that she was mistaken, and it was merely a case of freak incontinence. She was sent home and told to keep absolutely quiet so as not to harm the baby. By Monday she was losing blood and was quite convinced there was something wrong. She was admitted again for an ultrasound scan, which showed that there was no amniotic fluid around the baby, nor had there been for three days.
Unbeknown to her, the neo-natal staff at the hospital now assumed the baby was dead and did not consult with the mother, who could have told them that she could feel the baby’s heart beating. Plans for a caesarean were abandoned and they encouraged her to give birth in the normal way, which she did the following night of Tuesday 3rd April. The premature baby weighed 800 gr (1.7 lbs). The doctor put mother Analía to sleep immediately after the birth, and when she awoke some hours later, it was to see a nurse before her who asked her what they should do with the baby’s body. Her husband had already been given her death certificate.
In shock, she learned that the child had been put in a tiny box and the lid nailed down thirty minutes after her birth and taken to the mortuary. When Analía was well enough to get out of bed some hours later, she and Fabián sought to deal with their grief by insisting that they be allowed to view the body for the first time. By this stage twelve hours had elapsed since the birth.
At the mortuary the refrigerated chamber was opened and the box levered open, and as they gazed heartbroken at their little scrap of a daughter time stood still, for she stirred and wailed gently.
Analía screamed “My child is moving!” and fell to her knees. Fabián froze, and she remembers as if in slow motion that her husband helped her up as the mortuary attendant rushed forward and grabbed the child, disappearing through the door calling urgently for a doctor. But not before Analía’s eyes had registered that her little daughter’s body had been covered with a sheet, that she had frost on her face and her eyes were open. “She looked like a little bottle of ice,” she said. “Why wasn’t I there earlier? She lives thanks to God’s grace. She’s His now.”
The experts said that the extreme cold had played a part in preserving the baby’s life and hypothermia may have protected her. She had lost 50 gr during her ordeal and in no time she was hooked up to every life-supporting device imaginable and questions were being asked of the no less than five health professionals who had been present at the birth, by the top authorities in the hospital. Clearly they had a case of negligence on their hands and it wouldn’t be long before the press got hold of the story.
Analía and Fabián Verón abandoned their plans to name her Luciana Abigail, opting for Luz Milagros (the words mean ‘light’ and ‘miracles’, and are both popular names, inspired by Our Lady of Light and Our Lady of Miracles). They knew they needed a series of miracles to save her now.
The press sensed they were on to a good story, and before long the provincial governor and health minister had met them and promised all the help that was at the local government’s disposal.
Cristina Kirchner, president of the Argentine Republic, had got to hear of it and in a telephone conversation with Analía told her that she wanted to meet the child as soon as she was out of intensive therapy. “It goes to show that miracles do happen”, the president told her.
Luz Milagros was in a very delicate condition but stable, and would need to remain in hospital for the foreseeable future. During her first weeks she suffered convulsions, internal bleeding, pneumonia and a heart attack but overcame them all. In addition her cardiac condition progressively improved; her breathing was only being assisted as a precaution.
Over the following weeks she developed a further infection which was brought under control, her weight increased to a kilo (2.2lbs) and Analía was able to breastfeed her. She watched carefully over her little daughter, arriving at dawn every day from her home on the outskirts of the city, and staying until 10 p.m. every night, as she was not permitted to remain with her the 24 hours.
“She is so sweet”, she told reporters “she likes being with me and looks at me. I can’t believe it’s been a month already. This is truly a miracle.”
Three months have passed since Luz Milagros’ birth. Now at a large hospital in Buenos Aires, extensive tests have been carried out on the baby and unfortunately the news is not good. Her heart beats strongly, she has had no more episodes, and is practically at the stage where she can breathe by herself. But she is showing only 10% brain function, and the experts say the damage could be irreversible.
They have stopped giving her invasive medication which they say causes her discomfort and will not serve any useful purpose, and the doctors and priests speak of the option of a ‘dignified death’ and not extending her suffering. Analía will not give up on her daughter however, and does not like the way the discussions are going. “This cannot be in vain” she says, “there must be a reason why God has brought her this far”. Her husband Fabián Verón believes it is a fight which must be taken a day at a time.
And in the background the struggles have begun. The five doctors who attended at the birth have been suspended pending investigations, and funds from the provincial government in Chaco have been made available in the short term. It has yet to be decided who gets sued, how long will it take and how will they manage in the meantime; who will pay for Luz Milagros’ long-term care and how many will deny any responsibility.
Having been saved from the brink, the little mite now fights for her very right to exist.
Sources: News websites
Sources: News websites
Photo Finish- from Lonicera's digital archives
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