Today I want to highlight the preemies and their fighter mommas. On any given day we have on average around 20 premature babies. The moms live in the hospital the entire duration (weeks even months) until their baby is discharged. They must live, cook, sleep and stay there until it’s time for the baby to go home. This is not easy, as most mom’s have other children at home and must find some outside help to provide care for the rest of their family.
I really love the personalities of the moms here. Usually they have a joking attitude and a lot of “sass”. It is also what makes them strong enough to last months on end in the hospital. Each mom and their personality has made rounds in morning so enjoyable. Several babies or their mom’s have earned nicknames. One baby frantically swung his arms in the air anytime I came near him, and the mom taped socks to his hands so he wouldn’t pull his feeding tube out… so we called him “baby karate”. The mom loved it and made sure each morning that I “greeted” baby karate in Bambara (the local language) or else he would be “mad with me”. When she came back for her weight check weeks later she announced to everyone in the peds unit that “baby karate is back!!”
There are a number of factors that determine when we will discharge a kid… One of the requirements is the child being a weight of at least 2 kg (just under 5 lbs). Each day we greet the mom’s and their babies and everyone wants to know the same thing… Has my baby gained weight? This is usually funny as the mom’s compete against each other as to which baby is gaining faster as if a race towards the finish line. We joke with each mom and question wether they are placing their hand or thumb on the scale with the baby when they’ve gained a lot of weight over night. They always find this amusing.
One mom was always surfing on her phone as we did rounds and were asking her questions about how her baby was doing. She earned the title “madame facebook”. She left this week with her baby who is still doing well. I’m always happy to see a family get to go home or back to their village, but deep down I begin to miss these families I have built a bond with.
Lately, I have been trying to help encourage mom’s to pump and breastfeed as well as do “kangaroo care” (putting the baby skin to skin on their chest). Several times I’ve walked in the room to a mom who has been with us for weeks hooking up a new mom to a pump or teaching her how to do kangaroo care. It is such a proud moment to see the veteran moms teaching the new moms. The room that the preemies are in now has created a good environment for the mom’s to bond. There is only room for 6-7 babies cramped together in that room, so we often have babies spread out over the peds unit. I am very excited for the NICU where we can keep all the babies in the same room. I think the camaraderie is good for the moms too.
Another thing we're trying to instill is putting the tiniest of babies in little ziplock bags to keep them warm after birth. This does make you look twice, and it scared the moms and nurses here quite a bit. I had several nurses ask me "Binta WHATTT are you doing?!?!" This is actually research proven one of the BEST ways to retain body heat for the littlest of babies. Yup just a regular old zip loc bag! The moms here get scared that the baby will get "TOO hot". Even here where it is very hot outside, the extremely low birth weight infants still loose far too much heat and insensible water loss as their skin is just not adequate to retain it when born this early.
A shoutout THANK YOU to my Harris NICU in Fort Worth - great work on this research - you should know I'm trying to extend it's benefits here in Mali as well!
Our smallest baby right now came in at 900 grams and is doing well and gaining weight. She was born in the village and the mom thought the baby was too small to survive. Thankfully the grandma has been at our hospital before and called one of my coworkers, told her of the little baby, and asked what to do. My coworker asked if the baby was breathing and to hurry the baby to the peds unit. She is indeed NOT too small to survive. She is doing very well and weighs 1.6 kg - almost double her birthweight.
These twins were with us a few months ago, and one twin had a very large distended belly. We did a work up and found he had hirschprungs (a blockage in the intestines). Since I work with a pediatric surgeon, he was able to give the kid a stoma (a small opening in the abdomen where the intestine is brought out to the skin) so that the child can stool. This kid was pretty sick for a number of days, and wasn’t sure how well he would do. They are both doing great now! They visited for their checkup and both are gaining weight and doing fabulous. In a few months when the child is older and has gained some weight, Dan will be able to reconnect the intestines and the child should hopefully have a normal life. Always great to see kids doing well after they leave us!
1. I told you in my last post about Zeina, my language partner, who has become my Malian sister. Her family is my family here and I spend a quite a bit of time with them throughout the week. We had quite a scare with her 5 year old brother Daouda last week. He began vomiting and “acting weird" then lost control of his bowels/urine. He has a heart condition that we know about, but the family didn’t know just how bad it was. Zeina ran him to the hospital and found me in peds. I found him fairly unresponsive, so we picked him up and ran him to the pediatric ER to find his oxygen saturation in the 40’s (for the non-medical this is very bad). He ended up doing all right. He had a bout dehydration and malaria which strained his heart condition. The difficult part was breaking to Zeina and her family just how serious and unfixable his heart condition is at this point. I sat with them as they were in tears processing this information. We sat together, prayed for Daouda and talked of how Jesus is the ultimate healer and we will pray for a miracle for him. This has opened the doors to conversation about Jesus and His love for Daouda and his family. Pray that they come to know the power of Jesus and pray for a miracle in Daouda’s little heart. He is stable for now, but he will need nothing short of a miracle to continue living with the state his heart is in.
2. I was quite sick last month again even after treating malaria. I ended up taking a trip to the capital city to do some more extensive blood work to search for what has been causing my daily fevers. I took a few days to rest in a hotel while waiting for lab results. I ended up having a night there where my fever climbed above 105. Thankfully I was traveling with my (nurse) roommate, and most medicines/IV’s are available over the counter, so she was able to take care of me/hook me up to an IV and we were able to run a bunch of tests. It looks as if Dengue fever was possibly the culprit. I have begun to feel better the last week or 2, and even been able to play soccer again - praise God. Please continue to pray for my health. We had an inter-church tournament where I played with the guys from our church. We ended getting 2nd place with a 4-4 tie then losing in penalty kicks! It was such a blast and I was so thankful to be healthy enough to play!
3. The sea container has made it through customs and we expect it sometime this month! Pray for us as we unload everything and get the NICU set up very soon, and for the container to arrive safely this month!