• 5/8/2016
    A rehabilitation and specialized therapy program offered by Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Child Development Center has given a new lease on life to three year old Zahrat Al Hayat Mustafa, a baby with Down Syndrome and numerous birth complications.

    "I found out that Zahrat had Down Syndrome when I was three months into her pregnancy, due to regular medical check-ups I received at Women’s Hospital,” said Mrs. Mustafa, Zahrat’s mother. “I made sure that I followed-up and regularly checked on her health condition until her birth at the Women’s Hospital where she received the best and highest standard of medical and psychological care.”

    Because Zahrat had other health problems, such as partial bowel obstruction, two holes in her heart as well as low birth weight, she was kept in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for around 20 days after her birth. During her hospital stay, Zahrat underwent surgery to close one of the holes in her heart and she overcame the partial bowel obstruction. However, she still has the second hole in her heart.

    "I was shocked at first when I learned that Zahrat had Down Syndrome, particularly because she is my first child, but I gave thanks to God. However, with the passing of time, I began to accept the situation and prepare myself to receive her from the NICU,” said Zahrat’s mother, adding that she started collecting information related to children with Down Syndrome as well as searching for nurseries and appropriate rehabilitation centers before her birth.

    “After Zahrat was discharged from the hospital, I was referred to the Child Development Center at Rumailah Hospital and began her journey of rehabilitation and treatment. She joined the center when she was six months and is still being assisted to this day by distinguished specialists in various fields ranging from physiotherapy, occupational health, speech and language therapy, as well as special education services with the nursing service and psychological counseling,” said Mrs. Mustafa.

    Mrs. Mustafa said that though it took her daughter up to two years to walk, she progressed remarkably well in her cognitive development as she was quickly able to recognize things, learn sounds and say some simple words.

    Zahrat and her mother's experience throughout her treatment journey can be termed as a source of inspiration for many other children and mothers in similar circumstances, as Mrs. Mustafa said: "I left my job and devoted all of my time to Zahrat, and I often forget that she is living with Down Syndrome because I find educating and playing with her a happy and fun-filled time for both of us. Her father is also very helpful as he loves to play and interact with her with her too. This process of educating her was made easier due to the education I received from specialists at the Child Development Center, who never get tired of answering my repeated questions about Zahrat's condition.”

    Zahrat’s mother said she did not choose games and educational tools for her daughter randomly but looked instead for various learning methods that work for the development of her motor and cognitive skills. She also started to manufacture some of the games herself due to high prices. “I helped her use picture cards along with the sound and light games to identify things by their names.  I also use sandpaper cards to teach her pronunciation of the characters and their sounds in both Arabic and English. Then I started to develop her skills for self-reliance, so now she has begun to eat alone,” added Mrs. Mustafa.

    In order to have the right capabilities and be able to look after her daughter well, Zahrat's mother got herself trained in the Montessori system of teaching children from birth to three years, and now she is completing the second stage of the course for teaching children from age three to six. Presently, Zahrat has joined a pre-school in order to help her develop social and communication skills.

    Mrs. Mustafa has also created a Facebook page called "Diary of Zahrat Al Hayat" to show Zahrat’s progress through photos and videos. The page also features useful information on children with Down Syndrome.

    Mai Muhammad, Speech Therapist at the Child Development Center, who was following Zahrat's case from the beginning, said: "With continuous training, Zahrat’s situation has improved significantly and with the help of her mother, who carefully implements all instructions and provides us with many videos showing her steady progress, we became more positive about the success of the care she was receiving.”