“My baby boy nearly needed a blood transfusion”

Jessica Ang’s headaches during pregnancy were due to her G6PD deficiency. Now, she helps her son manage this inherited condition.

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“My son, C, is turning 4 this year. He is a really jovial, smart and active boy. He also has G6PD deficiency, an inherited condition in which the body does not have enough of the enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, or G6PD, which helps red blood cells function normally.

This deficiency can cause haemolytic anaemia ― a form of anaemia caused when red blood cells are destroyed (haemolysis), usually after exposure to certain medications, foods or even infections.

All newborns in Singapore are tested for G6PD deficiency at birth, and our paediatrican informed us that C had it, when he was just 2 days old.

“This deficiency can cause haemolytic anaemia ― a form of anaemia caused when red blood cells are destroyed (haemolysis).”

As a newborn, he had very bad jaundice, so he was transferred to KK Hospital till he was 15 days old.

During his stay in KKH, the doctor almost had to give him a blood transfusion because he had haemolysis. C was attached to an electrocardiograph machine and was closely watched by a group of doctors for three days. He was only discharged after his blood count stabilised, and when his heartbeat was no longer erratic.

Our relief was short-lived when we returned to KKH for another review when he was 4 weeks old. This time round, his blood test results showed that that his red blood count was still declining.

He had to be admitted immediately, and we were told to prepare ourselves in the event that he’d require a blood transfusion. Thank God, his blood count stabilised ― again! ― and he was discharged after spending two nights in the hospital.

C’s diagnosis came as a shock, but then, my sister is also G6PD deficient.

I knew, from my mum, that G6PD deficient people have to avoid fava (broad) beans, mothballs and certain medication. As I’d suspected that this condition is hereditary, I did a bit of research during my third trimester with C.