Baby Jeslyn is all smiles now - a year after surgery

One year ago, Indonesian housewife Novi Ratna Sari spent most of the Christmas holidays at the KK Women's and Children's Hospital anxiously keeping watch over her month-old baby, who was recovering from a major operation.

Little Jeslyn Lim had a rare tumour that was larger than her body, extending from her tailbone, and doctors doubted her chances of survival.

The tumour, known as sacrococcygeal teratoma (SCT), caused Jeslyn to suffer multiple organ failure and she was in critical condition. Doctors fought hard to save her, and it was only after a seven-hour operation with a 50 per cent success rate that it was removed on Dec 4.

The SCT is a tumour formed before birth, and occurs in one in 35,000 to 40,000 live births.

Jeslyn and her family had arrived at KKH on Dec 1 last year from Batam with the help of the Rotary E-Club of Singapore, a humanitarian organisation, and left on Jan 7 after recovering from the surgery.

Speaking to The Sunday Times on Friday when she was here on a day trip for Jeslyn's regular check-up at KKH, Ms Novi, 23, said she was grateful to all who had stepped forward to help her child, now 13 months old, when her story was first reported last year.

"Last year, I was so worried about her operation, but I'm so happy that she is growing every month, learning to crawl and sit, and calling us mum and dad, " she said referring to herself and her husband, Mr Junadi Lim, 29.

Moved by Jeslyn's plight, strangers in Singapore and Indonesia stepped forward with donations to pay for the baby's medical fees, which came up to over $100,000.

Jeslyn's parents would not have been able to afford the fees otherwise as Mr Lim earns just $500 a month as a storeman.

After Jeslyn was discharged, they have kept in touch with the donors who contacted them directly, with some of them visiting Jeslyn here when she returned for regular check-ups this year.

After the latest check-up, Associate Professor Low Yee, head and senior consultant at the Department of Paediatric Surgery in KK Women's and Children's Hospital, said there was currently no evidence of any recurrence of the SCT.

"Jeslyn's bladder and bowel function and continence appear to be normal for her age and on all examinations done so far."

Ms Novi said the family of three will be celebrating this festive season simply, having homecooked meals and spending time together. "Both of us are happy that we have been blessed with this little girl, and that we can have a whole and complete family."

This article was first published on Dec 25, 2016.
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