Inshaaf Jantjies from Bonteheuwel treasures every moment she gets to spend with her almost 1-year-old son, Asher, as he has been fighting to stay alive since his birth.
Asher, who is celebrating his first birthday on Friday February 8, was born with Down syndrome. He also has a heart condition, had water on the brain, and has short limbs.
It was during Ms Jantjies’ ultrasound scan at six months into the pregnancy that doctors diagnosed her unborn son. She was asked if she would consider abortion, as doctors did not expect him to live for much longer after birth.
“I felt my child kick inside of me. I could not agree to have him aborted. I am also Christian, and as a child of God, I could not do that,” Ms Jantjies said.
Asher was also born prematurely, and after spending two weeks in hospital after birth, he was sent home, only to be rushed to Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital shortly thereafter.
“He stayed in the hospital for another two months, as he had heart failure, and was hooked on a machine. While at the hospital, he needed urgent surgery, and at the age of only two months, he had open heart surgery.
“I believe he was the youngest patient to undergo this kind of surgery. Just before the operation, the doctor told me to greet my son, as the chances that he would survive, was slim. I refused to give up on him though and I believed God will help him pull through,” Ms Jantjies said.
Asher has had three heart failure episodes since then, but looking at the busy, bubbling baby he is now, it is hard to believe he has been through so much.
“I treat him just like any other child. I have a 5-year-old daughter as well. The only difference is that I cannot enrol him in a crèche because of his medical condition.
“He sometimes gets pneumonia, and he was also diagnosed with an over-active thyroid recently. He still has one hole in his heart. I care for him full-time. Asher is a very happy child, he is a fast learner – even his doctor is amazed at his development. He is also very active and eats a lot. He brings so much joy to all of us,” Ms Jantjies said.
She said she celebrates every day of his life, especially since his diagnosis before his birth was disheartening.
“I can’t imagine my life without him. While I was at hospital with him, I have seen many children with his condition who passed away. It is not something I wish upon anyone. All I can say to others who find themselves in a similar position, is to keep the faith. God performed this miracle. Having Asher changed my life and my family’s lives for the better. The reason he is here is because God has a special plan for his life, and our lives as a family,” Ms Jantjies said.