Brazil: Baby Duda: a year in the life of a Zika baby
Three days after Maria Eduarda “Duda” was born, Mirian Pereira, the sister of Duda’s biological father, found the newborn abandoned by her parents at the maternity hospital, and likely left to die. Mirian had just recovered finished treatment from leukemia when Duda "came into her life". She scooped her up and took her to the pediatric hospital. There, Duda then began to have seizures in the arms of Dr. Regina Coeli, director of the children's infectious diseases at the Oswaldo Cruz University Hospital. She was severely malnourished and dehydrated, and born with zika-related mircrocephaly.
First detected in late 2015, the mosquito-borne Zika virus continued to spread in Brazil throughout the following year, alarming health officials and expecting mothers that their babies will be born with an abnormal brain development called microcephaly.
Brazil accounts for 92% of the 2300 worldwide cases of zika-related microcephaly. In Brazil, nearly 90% of the country's 1,749 Zika-linked microcephaly cases are in the Northeast, according to the Health Ministry (July 2016). While researchers have yet to make a connection - most of 90% of cases are concentrated in the Northeast city of Recife - from mothers who tested positive to the Zika virus in their first trimester.
I first met Duda and her family, Mirian and her daughter-in-law, Cleane Silva, 18, at Oswaldo Cruz on January 8, 2016. Duda had been in the hospital for the 27 days of her one-month old life. “It was my destiny,” said Mirian. “My kids are grown and I knew Duda would be sent to an orphanage.”
Duda was one of the most severe cases of the Zika babies. She eventually was hospitalized seven times by the time she was eight-months-old.
Cleane quit school to help Mirian raise Duda. While she does most of the rearing -- the bathing, the at-home therapies, changing diapers it is Mirian who has legal custody of Duda. The judge told her, Duda doesn’t need a guardian. She needs a mom and she needs you. The judge granted full adoption. Duda’s biological parents suffer from alcoholism and mental health issues. They earn a living as recyclers. (*It is common in poorer communities that Brazilian teens live with their boyfriend’s family).
“Thank god Duda is with us because if she’s with them, she would have died,” said Cleane
(For the Washington Post, and later for Stat News, an online health and medicine journal. Also see Duda's one-year story for Stat).