Cuddly friend for toddler with rare condition

By Ilona Hanne of the Stratford Press

18-month-old Hayley Ryan with Nait, the travelling teddy bear who is currently staying with Hayley and her family in Stratford. Photo / Supplied
18-month-old Hayley Ryan with Nait, the travelling teddy bear who is currently staying with Hayley and her family in Stratford. Photo / Supplied

Stratford toddler Hayley Ryan is hosting an international visitor this month, with her parents Melitta Marshall-Smith and Aaron Ryan.

Hayley's visitor is a teddy bear called Nait, who is originally from England and has made his way to Hayley's house via Australia and Indonesia.

Nait is a cute and cuddly friend for the 18-month-old girl and also a bear with a mission - to raise awareness about a blood disorder called Neonatal Alloimmune Thrombocytopenia (Nait).

Melitta explains that Nait is a condition in which the parents' blood platelets are incompatible, causing the mother's body to create an antibody that attacks the unborn child's platelets.

Platelets are the part of our blood which help with clotting so the antibody attack means the baby is at risk of bleeding in the brain, stomach or other parts of the body.

Melitta and Aaron are now knowledgeable about the disease, though they had never heard of it before Hayley was born. Melitta says that, when Hayley was born at 42 weeks, she started to bruise easily and five hours after she was born her pulse didn't show up on the machine used to check it.

The newborn was rushed to the neonatal unit at Taranaki Base Hospital where she was diagnosed and treated for the potentially fatal condition.

The normal platelet count for newborns is about 150 - Hayley's platelet count was just seven. Hayley needed three separate platelet transfusions before she could go home and spent her first two weeks in the hospital.

Melitta describes Hayley as a miracle baby. "That's what they all called her in the hospital because she has recovered so well and has no long-term effects from it."

Once Hayley was home, Melitta started looking into the condition and educating herself about it. She came across a group on Facebook and its website and says the group is "a wonderful resource of lovely ladies who are just so helpful and giving".

The group put her in touch with other families in New Zealand. "There are just eight families that we know of in New Zealand dealing with the disease," Melitta says.

It was through this group that Nait the bear was conceived. He and his sister Naitalie have been sent off around the world as cuddly ambassadors for the disease. As they visit each family, they are taken on outings.

"We are going to our music group next week and will definitely take him up the mountain," says Melitta.

Nait will collect a "passport stamp" at the local post shop and be sent on to the next family. Nait will leave Hayley later this month and make his way to Invercargill.

While Hayley is now a happy and healthy toddler, Ryan and Melitta know that any future pregnancy will come with the certainty that the baby will have Nait. This is because Melitta is in what medical professionals term "the 100 per cent group".

Melitta says hosting Nait is a great way to spread the word about Hayley's condition, as well as reminding people of the importance of donating blood.

"I am so thankful for all the people in the world who do donate blood, as without them, Hayley's life could have been so different, or she may not have even survived."

- Stratford Press

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