When Chantal Emery woke up on June 28, little did she know that her quadruplets were making their way into the world. THATO TINTE follows up with this fearless mom.
Chantal Emery is quadriplegic and has used a wheelchair since a car accident in 2008 left her partially paralysed from the waist down. She was told that she would never have children but, soon after marrying Robert Emery, she gave birth to Scarlett. When she fell pregnant again she couldn’t believe it when doctors told her she was having three boys. The couple also have three children from Robert’s previous marriage.
As a result of her disability, Chantal is unable to feel contractions. She recalls wetting the bed one night when she was six months pregnant, and assumed this was because of her disability. As a precaution she put on a nappy and went back to sleep.
Home alone with 3-year-old Scarlett and 13-year-old Joshua, Chantal woke to discover a baby in the nappy – this was Gabriel. She called Joshua to help her and remembers how scared he was. “He told me that he ‘didn’t want to be a doctor’. Panicking, I asked him to ‘call 911’ and he said, ‘This is not America, mom,’” she says.
Gabriel was followed by Bradley, and then Daniel. While still attached to his mother, Bradley’s umbilical cord snapped and he fell to the floor. Despite the terrifying bloody scene, brave Joshua managed to help his little brother and covered him in blankets. The four were taken to hospital and just as everyone thought the day couldn’t get any more eventful, a fourth boy named Harvey, made his surprise appearance.
Chantal says the past months have been a rollercoaster for the family. At birth, two of the boys weighed less than a kilogram and the other two not much more. All had bleeding on the brain, and doctors haven’t been able to confirm if permanent brain damage will occur. (Sadly, Bradley passed away on July 14.)
Gabriel has lung problems and Daniel has had his feeds stopped so fluid can be drained from his brain following an infection; both boys are on and off ventilators and oxygen. “The whole experience has been terrifying,” says Chantal. “They are so small and it saddens me that I can’t take their pain away.”
After her accident, Chantal had found out how high the costs of a hospital stay can be and tried to source the best insurance for her pregnancy. Confusion may have arisen during a telephonic consultation with an independent broker, she says, because she and Robert were shocked to discover that their plan was capped at R1 million; a figure that was reached in less than a month.
The family now faces financial difficulties with outstanding medical bills. To help raise funds, friends and family created the Facebook page, “The Awesome Foursome Emery Boys”, which is also used to give progress updates on the boys.
Harvey came home on September 17 and Gabriel was due to be home by the time of writing; Daniel continues to fight his infection. Chantal says that Harvey became used to the lights, noise and machines in the Intensive Care Unit and cries if lights and the TV are off in the house; he becomes calmer and rests better when these are on.
“We need a new car now. Ours seats seven people and we need an 11-seater that’s spacious enough for my wheelchair too,” she adds with a laugh.
She makes a valid point. “I believe there should be a support system and database for mothers or pregnant women in wheelchairs,” she says. “For example, I need wheelchair-friendly furniture such as cots and prams but have no idea where to access these. Someone else must have gone through something like this, and having a sharing platform would guide us in the right direction so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”
The latest news
We contacted Chantal at the time of going to print and we have good news! Gabriel has been discharged and has come home to his family.
Daniel, who’s had fluid on the brain, has now exceeded the
2,5 kg weight requirement needed for the shunt surgery (to remove the fluid on his brain) – he now weighs more than 3 kg. He is not yet able to undergo surgery, though, because his protein levels are too high.
We’ll keep you updated.