Battle for life

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‘Several times we thought we were going to lose her’

Proud Frankton Road parents Jamil and Mumtaz Khan are overwhelmed with relief every time they hug the precious baby daughter they feared they might never see.

Little Ariza was delivered on March 9 after a series of touch-and-go health scares.

In the three months before her arrival, the Khans travelled 12,000km to and from the Wakatipu by plane, car and ambulance to see specialists around New Zealand after it emerged the baby was suffering from a rare blood condition that can cause severe anaemia.

The medical marathon took in trips to hospitals in Invercargill and Dunedin, as well as three visits to Auckland and six to Christchurch for lifesaving treatment for the unborn tot.

This included two blood transfusions while she was still in the womb.

“We call Ariza our million-dollar baby because that’s what she means to us after putting up such a battle,” beams dad Jamil.

“Several times we thought we were going to lose her.”

The drama didn’t end there.

Since being born, Ariza has undergone two more transfusions.

One was performed after a frantic dash to Invercargill from Lakes District Hospital in Frankton when Ariza was just nine days old.

She’d started choking at home after a bad reaction to some medication.

And just last week, the baby had to have her blood boosted there again after becoming unwell.

But Jamil, 31, originally from Uttar Pradesh, India, says despite the setbacks she’s improving.

“Ariza will have weekly blood tests to monitor the anaemia until she’s three months old,” he explains.

Complications were discovered in late December during a check-up at LDH.

“I had been staying with family in India for the first six months of my pregnancy and all the tests there showed everything was normal,” says Mumtaz.

“But when I came back to Queenstown, we were told there was a problem with the baby’s blood.”

The Khans’ first child, two-year-old son Rehaan, was born in Invercargill a month early with the same condition as his new sister. He recovered well.

“We were told then if I got pregnant again the baby would be in the high-risk category, but we had no idea it would become such a nightmare,” says Mumtaz, 25.

In early January, after tests at LDH revealed an abnormality with the second pregnancy, too, the Khans were sent straight to Invercargill’s Southland Hospital.

Medics there thought they’d have to deliver the baby two months early or she might die.

But after seeing further specialists in Dunedin and Auckland, it was arranged for the Khans to fly to Christchurch on a weekly basis for monitoring – and where the baby would be delivered at 37 weeks.

“When we were in Christchurch, twice we had to go to Auckland so the baby could have transfusions when the anaemia got bad,” says taxi driver Jamil.

“The stress on us all was unbelievable and my eyes were often red from crying.

“It was such a relief when Ariza was finally born.”

The situation also meant self-employed Jamil, who has lived in the resort for nine years, could barely find time to work.

But he says bosses, staff and drivers at Queenstown Taxis were superb throughout the ordeal.

“We can’t thank them enough for all their fantastic support. They couldn’t do enough to help.”

The Khans are also full of praise for NZ’s health service, which picked up the tab for their flights and accommodation, as well as the specialised medical treatment.

But the couple insist their family is now complete as any future pregnancies could carry similar risks.

“We couldn’t go through all that again,” says Jamil.