Friday, February 24, 2012

Anika :: Child with Spina Bifida

Anika was born on 10 November 2010 in Nelspruit Mediclinic, Mpumalanga, South Africa with undiagnosed Spina Bifida (Myelomeningocele at L3).

The morning after birth she was taken to Unitas Hospital in Pretoria, Gauteng, by ambulance, where she was admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit. The neurosurgeon, Dr Joachim Mennen, performed an operation on her the following day in order to close the hole in her back from which the spinal cord protruded. The operation was successful and she was kept in ICU for observation. Three days later brain fluid started building up, which caused pressure on the brain (hydrocephalus). Dr Mennen suggested that a third ventriculostomy be performed to open the natural drainage mechanism of the brain.

This operation was unsuccessful and a shunt implant was done 4 days later. The shunt is embedded in the skull and drains brain fluid to the abdomen where it is absorbed. Anika’s diagnosis at this stage was that the minimal movement in her legs was due to reflexes only and that she’ll never have any control over her legs. She was released a week later to recover at home. We started with Babygym, physiotherapy and occupational therapy immediately. After a month of therapy it became evident that she definitely gained partial control over her legs.

In March 2011 her physiotherapist, Marlene Steyn, noticed symptoms of shunt failure and a CT scan was performed in Nelspruit. The neurosurgeon in Nelspruit diagnosed Chiari Malformation and not a shunt failure and suggested that we go to Pretoria for a decompression operation. A MRI scan was done in Pretoria and two specialists confirmed that it’s not Chiari Malformation but that the shunt malfunctioned (a very rare occurrence as they usually just get blocked). A shunt replacement was done on the same day by Dr Mennen.

Back in Nelspruit Anika was progressing well. She managed to sit on her own and roll over. She reached all her milestones on time, except for pulling herself up to a standing position and walking.

In June a series of interventions began in order to straighten her clubfeet. They operated on both her feet and she had to go back to theatre several times to manipulate her feet by using the Ponseti casting method.

At the time that she was 9 months old, she had already been to theatre 10 times and counting. She has been so strong throughout the whole process. Her life is being bombarded with therapy and operations, but Anika smiles all the way to hospital and back. She has really been an inspiration to everybody around her. She also started to move around the floor (her own way of crawling) in October 2011, we are so proud of her! Now in February 2012 she is crawling on her hands and knees, it’s absolutely amazing!

In future she will face more operations and challenges, but in the meanwhile, she is just another little baby girl, full of joy and laughter – who would like to have a fair chance in life... and that’s what we will give to her – every fighting chance we can!

Please visit Anika's website at

Thank you for sharing Anika's story with us Annél! We still need stories, please ADD YOURS!

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