No hope for baby with no intestines? Nope

This baby has confounded doctors just by being alive.

Baby Andrei, of Romania, was given just days to live when he was born with almost no intestines eight months ago.

Now, there's a glimmer of hope for another miracle. People in Europe and the US have started offering funds to help the tiny boy with twig-thin limbs get a complicated intestine transplant in the US, the Romanian paediatrician in charge of the baby's care said on Thursday.

The offers came after an Associated Press story last week chronicled how Dr Catalin Cirstoveanu, head of the neonatal unit at Bucharest's Marie Curie children's hospital, flies babies abroad for life-saving operations to get around a culture of corruption in which many doctors won't operate unless they're bribed.

Photographs of Andrei in his incubator generated sympathy around the world.

"Offers of help have come in, particularly from abroad, from a non-governmental organisation," Dr Cirstoveanu said.

The cost of the operation goes into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, way out of the reach of Andrei's gypsy parents, who live in a poor part of eastern Romania.

The average monthly salary in Romania is 350 euros (S$575).

The bribery culture in Romanian hospitals is so ingrained that nurses expect bribes just to change sheets. Surgeons can get hundreds of euros and upward for an operation, while anaesthetists get roughly a third of that.

Andrei, who still weighs less than an average newborn, has just 10cm of intestine, compared to about 3m for other babies his age.

He has captured the hearts of his nurses, some of whom played the lottery to try to raise the money needed for the operation in the US, which Dr Cirstoveanu hopes the infant will now get for free.

Andrei's parents, who live hundreds of kilometres away, rarely visit. Nurses take turns cuddling the bony baby, who loves human contact and screws up his face and wails when put back in his incubator.

Dr Cirstoveanu said that without surgery, Andrei could expect to live for "one, two, three months".

Andrei's parents all but despaired of saving their son when they approached Dr Cirstoveanu for help.

Now, it seems possible.

"He should have been dead by now, but he has another chance," Dr Cirstoveanu said. "But he needs this operation soon. It is very urgent."

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