A lot can happen in three weeks. The petrol price can increase, the prime interest rate can be hiked, and a pregnancy can go from perfect to alarming. This happened to Marco and Niké Muller, who found out that their unborn child was in danger.

After being born 17 weeks premature, spending 225 days in the Mediclinic Kloof NICU, and needing 10 further admissions to the hospital, Marné Muller is now thriving.

It was on 10 September 2021 that Pretoria-based couple Marco and Niké Muller learnt they were going to become parents for the first time. “We were so excited to be starting a family,” recalls Marco. “Niké followed all the prenatal guidelines, and we had no problems for the first 22 weeks of the pregnancy.” But three weeks later, they received devastating news. “When we went for the 25-week scan, we discovered that our baby was in serious danger.”

Around the 18-week mark, Dr Douw Holder, their gynaecologist and obstetrician at Mediclinic Kloof, had already picked up that baby Marné was small and not hitting her growth milestones.

Marco and Niké Muller with Marné.

Alarming news

The 25-week scan happened on 7 February 2022, and Dr Holder was straightforward with them. “He told us that we were losing our baby. Those are words I will never forget,” Marco says. Niké had developed pre-eclampsia, which meant baby Marné wasn’t getting enough oxygen, blood, or nutrients.

Pre-eclampsia is a blood pressure condition that develops during pregnancy. It’s usually identified through high blood pressure and a high protein level in the mother’s urine. Niké was admitted to Mediclinic Kloof, where she was put under strict bed rest so she and the baby could be monitored. Dr Holder also gave Niké steroids to give her baby a fighting chance of surviving. “All we could do was stabilise my wife’s blood pressure and hope that Marné’s heart continued to beat for as long as possible,” Marco recalls. “The problem is there’s nothing you can do about pre-eclampsia but wait it out.”

• Mother – causes the kidneys and liver to not function properly.
• Baby – results in a shortage of oxygen, blood and other nutrients, which could stunt growth.


“It was a miracle that she was born, and we continued to put our faith in God, and the amazing medical professionals at Mediclinic Kloof.” 

Emergency premature delivery

By the 28th week of pregnancy – three weeks after Niké had been admitted into the hospital – doctors noticed the baby’s heart beginning to beat irregularly. They made the unavoidable decision to deliver Marné via emergency caesarean section on 3 March 2022.

“She weighed 630g and we must only have had five seconds with her before doctors took her away to the NICU,” says Marco. The baby was instantly placed in an incubator where her environment could be manipulated and modified to allow her to grow and to protect her from harmful outside conditions. All Marco and Niké could do was pray that Marné would pull through. “I wrote a prayer the night she was delivered and left it in her room in NICU,” says Marco. “It was a miracle that she was born, and we continued to put our faith in God, and the amazing medical professionals at Mediclinic Kloof.”

After being born 17 weeks premature, and spending 225 days in the Mediclinic Kloof NICU, baby Marné was finally cleared to go home. This came with some conditions, “Doctors advised us to keep Marné at home as much as possible and limit visitors for the first few months.”

Progress amid challenges

Marné has continued to face challenges and setbacks in her very young life, but despite these, is progressing well. “She has had a few operations since birth and has probably been admitted to Mediclinic Kloof 10 times,” says Marco. “She’s been slow in terms of hitting her milestones, although thankfully she is growing nicely. She eats well, she’s starting to crawl, and her fine-motor skills are excellent.”

He has nothing but praise for the doctors and nursing staff at Mediclinic Kloof, saying he could never explain how grateful he and Niké are to the hospital. “Through the most difficult time in our lives, Mediclinic Kloof made it possible for us to be positive and to stand up every time we were falling.”

Like all parents, Marco and Niké think their baby girl is perfect, but after their ordeal they have even more reason than most to feel this way. “She loves her bath time, she loves interacting with people, she is just perfect in all aspects,” says Marco. At the time of writing Marné was 16 months old, and weighed 6kg, which is 10 times her birth weight. Marco believes she was put through this ordeal for a reason, although he isn’t sure what that reason is yet. “One day, we will understand why it happened the way it did.”

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