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A father fights for his child’s life

Samuel Estima diagnosed with persistent pulmonary hypertension which reportedly occurs in approximately one in 700 births
  • Salnave ‘Saul’ Estima, the father of Samuel Estima, who was diagnosed with Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension (PPHN) just hours after his birth, is appealing to the public for assistance to help him take his son to the United States where he can receive treatment. PHOTOS: SAUL ESTIMA

  • Salnave ‘Saul’ Estima says it hurts him every time he visits his son to see him hooked up to machines.

  • Salnave ‘Saul’ Estima, 48, and his wife Mesina Estima, 42, in happier times, before the birth of their first born child, Samuel, who hours after his birth was diagnosed with persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), which isn’t common, but can compromise a newborn’s health and have long-term complications.

Guardian Lifestyles Editor

Published: Sep 03, 2013

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Salnave ‘Saul’ and Mesina Estima, ages 48-years-old and 42-years-old respectively, were overjoyed when they learned they were to become parents to their first child – they considered Samuel their miracle baby when he as born at 11 a.m. on August 2. Estima says he was overjoyed. But that joy was short-lived. By early evening on the day of Samuel’s birth, the infant had stopped breathing and been placed into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. He has now been there for a month.

The Estima’s only child was diagnosed with persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), which isn’t common, but can compromise a newborn’s health and have long-term complications.

In the womb, the pathway of the baby’s blood circulations is different than it is after birth. In the uterus, a baby’s circulation bypasses the lungs. The lungs are not needed to exchange oxygen because the placenta (the organ that nourishes and protects the developing baby) supplies the baby with oxygen through the umbilical cord. The pulmonary artery, which, after birth, carries blood from the heart to the lungs, instead sends blood directly back to the heart through a fetal blood vessel, according to medical reports.

Normally when a baby is born and begins to breathe air, his circulatory system quickly adapts to the outside world. In a baby with PPHN, the fetal circulatory system does not switch over, and the baby’s blood flow continues to bypass the lungs. Even though the baby is breathing oxygen in, the breathed air does not reach the bloodstream.

PPHN occurs as an isolated condition, and its cause is not known. It is usually seen soon after birth — within 12 hours after birth. It reportedly occurs in approximately one in 700 births. The Estima’s newborn son was born in that minority.

Samuel is receiving oxygenated care in hospital with the hopes that his tube will eventually open up, but one month after his birth, his dad said he was told that the best treatments for his son included Ecmo and Nitrous Oxide gases to ensure his son’s survival were to be had in the United States.

Estima say he was quoted in the region of $75,000 by healthcare facilities in the United States for his son to receive treatment – $70,500 estimated for hospital/technical fees and estimated four-week stay and $4,800 per day for each additional day. The fee did not include the doctor’s fees, or the cost of the air ambulance to transport the infant.

It’s a bill, Estima who drives a taxi and his stay-at-home wife cannot afford to pay, but the father says his conscience would not allow him to not do all that he could to try to save his son’s life.

“I was told by a consultant that with the process of time it (tube) may open, but if it does not open he will die … but I hope not,” said Estima. “In the meantime, time is running against us, but we’re hoping it would get better. We just hope and pray.”

When he visits his son daily, Estima said it hurts him to see his child in the condition he’s in.

“I feel terrible whenever I go up there (hospital) and see him hooked up to the machine. I see him lying down helpless, and it makes me feel terrible because I can’t help him myself. I would do anything to try to save his life, but I’m limited,” he said.

Some researches believe that stress while the baby is in the uterus (associated with certain pregnancy complications) such as maternal diabetes, high blood pressure or anemia, or delivery after 40 weeks) may increase the risk of developing PPHN.

It may also occur with certain diseases or congenital conditions of the infant that affect the lungs in some way – Mecounium aspiration syndrome, anemia, severe pneumonia, infection, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and birth asphyxia (when the baby is deprived of oxygen during a complicated delivery) have all been associated with PPHN.

Signs and symptoms that indicate a baby has PPHN include rapid breathing (also called tachypnea), rapid heart rate, respiratory distress, including signs such as flaring nostrils and grunting, cyanosis (when the skin has a bluish tinge) even while the baby is receiving extra oxygen to breathe.

According to Estima, doctors told him his son’s tube closed after his birth.

Even with prompt recognition and treatment, an infant with PPHN may continue to supply an inadequate amount of oxygen to the body’s tissues, resulting in shock, heart failure, brain hemorrhage, seizures, kidney failure, multiple organ damage and possibly even death.

Fifteen years ago, according to medical reports, almost half of infants diagnosed with PPHN died; today, less than 20 percent of infants with PPHN die, and only about one-fifth of surviving infants experience long-term physical or developmental complications.

“If I had money, I could take him to receive the treatment,” said the taxi driver. “They say sometimes with the process of time that sometimes the lungs may kick in by itself with medications … if not, the child will die.”

Estima held a cookout to try to raise funds to assist in defraying the cost of taking his son to the United States to seek medical help. He said it did not go well, and that from that one cookout he realizes that if he has 25 cookouts, that he would not raise enough money. But he says he has to try. He will hold a second steakout on Saturday, August 24. And is also appealing to members of the public for assistance to help him fight for his son’s life.

“I just hope that some people with good hearts would step forward to help me bring that child to the U.S. where he could receive treatment and have a greater chance of survival. I’m a man of faith and I have to believe God will do it all, that God will open the door, that’s why I keep on knocking,” he said.

Estima can be contacted at 425-5752 or 323-3759. He has also opened an account (107751) at Scotiabank to which donations can be made.


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