Six Degrees of Happiness
By Dilanthi Jayamanne
This is definitely a ‘wow,’ situation! During this tumultuous and chaotic time, of a fearful and deadly pandemic, strikes in the agriculture, education and health sectors, the increasing weight of the cost of living, of which the swelling in gas and fuel prices are only a segment in the fight for survival, this tiny isle nestling in the vast Indian Ocean has seen the birth of Sextuplets for the first time in its history.
Three baby boys and three baby girls were born during the early hours of Thursday, 21 October 2021 to Prabath Udayanga (35) and Dilini Wasana (31), a couple living in the vicinity of the Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) in Angoda, at a private hospital situated in Kirimandala Mawatha, Narahenpita.
“I have no words to describe my emotions,” said Udayanga the father of six infants who are currently being cared for at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of the private hospital, having arrived in the world after 31 weeks of gestation. Udayanga, who is from Vavuniya, is currently working as an Engineer for a firm in Colombo. Therefore, the couple who got married in 2019 was residing in a rented house in the locality of the IDH.
“We did not want to start a family immediately after marriage. But after a certain time we started trying for a baby. In 2020 we met with Fertility Specialist, Dr. Thilina Palihawadana, who enhanced the possibilities of having children for us. It was with his treatment that on 4 April 2021 that we realised that we were going to be parents,” he said.
Preparing for pregnancy
From the time the couple heard the good news that they were going to have not one but six children, as had been revealed during two scans which had been done on Dilini Wasana – the mother, the couple looked up all available information on the local and international scenario. Sri Lanka has had triplets, quadruplets and quintuplets. But this was a first time in which sextuplets were to be born.
Probing the world scenario they found that hitherto it was a very rare occurrence. It was a process of watching the mother to be as she increased in weight, being administered vaccines, including the two doses for the coronavirus, and scanning. Two scans revealed that she was to have six babies. And as the pregnancy advanced, more scans were performed. Udayanga said that not being from Colombo itself, he had felt a slight trepidation when the Obstetrician and Gynaecologist (Gyn and Obs), Prof. Tiran Dias had suggested that Wasana be admitted to the particular private hospital in Kirimandala Mawatha where she had attended the clinic.
But the reassurance and the faith the couple placed in Pof. Dias at the time had seen them through to the day that the six siblings were brought out into the world. “I could comfort my wife, help and be there for her, but I could not bear the discomfort, pain and anxiety of mind that she must have borne during this entire period. It was the Prof. Dias and his competent team of doctors, nurses and even hospital staff who helped us through,” Udayanga said. The new father observed that not only their family members and friends but also their neighbours and staff of the places in which they were employed had extended their support to them.
Dilini Wasana had been admitted to hospital during early October as a precautionary measure. Udayanga said the eldest of his six children was a girl followed by three boys while the two youngest were also girls.
Birth of the sextuplets
A team of 40 led by Gyn and Obs, Prof. Tiran Dias, comprised Neonatal Paediatricians, Drs. Buddhima Jayasinghe and Nalin Gamaathige, Physician, Dr. Priyankara Jayawardena, and several other doctors, nurses and assistant health staff hand-picked almost, for their experience in multiple deliveries contributed towards making the entire procedure of delivering the six following a caesarean operation a success.
The infants were born between 12:16 a.m. and 12:18 a.m. A scan was done to map out the manner in which the foetuses were placed inside the womb, Prof. Dias said. Also, scans were done to ensure that the foetuses were risk free of any disabilities of Down’s syndrome. Towards the latter part of the pregnancy scanning was done more regularly to ensure the blood flow from the placentas to the babies and the growth of the foetuses was unhindered.
Each of six had a placenta and a water bag he explained. Prof. Dias said although the obstetrics and gynaecological teams had experience of delivery of triplets, quadruplets and quintuplets, this was a new experience. The decision had to be taken to ensure that they and the mother would survive what was to be an ordeal. The team performed rehearsals using dolls to ensure that nothing went wrong and that there were no hiccups.
Physician, Dr. Jayawardena had been called in to manage the mother when her blood pressure started to increase as the pregnancy advanced. She had more and more complications as time passed while another cause for concern was the increase of protein in her urine. The doctors caring for Wasana were faced with the dilemma of risking the mother’s life by delaying the surgery and risking the chances for survival of the six foetuses by operating on her too early.
“The challenge was to safeguard the lives of the mother and the six unborn infants, balancing the well-being of the mother’s health and the growth of the children,” he observed. Dr. Jayawardena said the proud parents of the sextuplets had left it to the medical teams to make the decisions using their medical knowledge and skills to help them realise their dream. By Friday (22) morning the new mother was still being cared for in the ICU following the caesarean operation while the infants delivered after 31 weeks of gestation were in the NICU.
The eldest boy – the second to be born was on a ventilator. But all was well at the time. The Private Health facility in which this miracle of life took place helped facilitate the entire procedure. What should be appreciated is that be it a State or private sector health institution, the country still has a few good men and women ready to sacrifice their time, energy and perhaps their own comfort and wellbeing to realise the dreams of others.