Day 5 – NICU and Maternity

Since 2007, Adara has had the great privilege of partnering with Aspen. It has been an amazing partnership, which has shown us all the exponential power of linking the business sector with those in need in the developing world. Together, we have been able to provide the hospital with a new and expanded neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and a brand new maternity ward. In addition, Aspen helps people living with HIV to stay happy and healthy through various programmes. They also support the preventative arm of the hospital, through community outreach.

Each year, Aspen staff members from offices across the globe come to Kiwoko Hospital in Uganda to see firsthand the impact of this partnership. Every year, they leave inspired. For the next week, the ambassadors will be writing a blog each day about their experience at Kiwoko. Here is day five!

By Ryan Grant

The air was sterile with a hint of citrus lemon lingering and the sound of babies crying echoed throughout the halls. Mothers separated into their own cubicles giving a sense of privacy with their families and I vaguely remember a nurse giving me a strawberry flavoured lolly pop even though I hadn’t been behaving too well.

The last time I was in a maternity ward I must have been 4 years old; now 20 years later, my experience on the subject matter stays the same.

Nothing can prepare you for any of the departments in Kiwoko Hospital and the NICU (premature babies)/ maternity ward is no exception.

The air was humid, but for the low hum of breathing equipment accompanied by the buzz and beep of heart rate monitors. You wouldn’t have been able to guess there were 10 + new born babies lying in the room ahead. We were greeted by a rather stern looking lady called Sister Christine who instructed us to remove our shoes before entering the NICU and replace them with what I can only describe as a closed toe sandals, maybe something I’d expect my Dad to wear to the beach (with socks).
Afzal playing one of the ugly sisters in the Cinderella fairy tale was unable to slip his feet into the pair of shoes given to him and similar to the story managed to uncomfortably squash his toes into his plastic slipper for the duration of the tour.

Slowly walking through the ward I glanced over at one of the cots: UV lights, lying motionless and attached to more pipes and cables than a modern day computer was a set of 2 babies (possibly twins).

I couldn’t believe my eyes: the first child we were introduced to could easily fit into the palm of my hand and weighed not much more than a kilo. His fingers were the size of jelly beans with nails like a grain of rice. Dr James explained how the repository equipment worked, inflating their lungs and helping the children breathe so they could spend more energy on other vital functions.

The baby began to stir, shortly followed by a cry. This disturbed the neighboring child who also let out a healthy ‘Wahh’! I felt a sense of relief to hear so much sound coming from both the babies.

We were told the survival rate for premature babies weighing less than a kilo out of the hospital was next to none, in the hospital roughly 50% survive (depending on size). As if the toss of a coin could be equal to the chance of life!

In the far corner of the room sat 6 mothers each holding their babies, strapped to their bare chest. This practice is called KMC (Kangaroo Mother Care). Sister Christine reeled off a list of advantages of using KMC and it is often the case that these simple solutions that are proving the key in improving the overall including less stress for mother and baby, better brain development, heart rate stablisation, better sleep, less depressed mothers… The list goes on.

As well as writing notes for this blog I’d also been given the task of taking the photos. I gestured to the women if they would mind if I took a picture of each of them. They all approved and I took a shot of each mum, showing them the results on the camera display. One mum in particular was keen on me taking photos of her with her baby. Just as I was about to leave the same mum gestured to my bag; she wanted it, so I gave it to her! Adara had provided us with some very nice Ugandan shoulder bags with stationery and a few essentials inside. Knowing this, Mother would have far more use than I would so, despite the sentimental value, I emptied the bag, leaving her the sweets, pen and hand gel.

Next was the maternity ward; Dr Ishaq listed off all the equipment Aspen has helped to purchase: CTGs, a freezer to store drugs and ultrasound scan devices were among a few of the tools.

A nurse appeared from behind a curtain asking for Dr Ishaq’s help where we had been hearing some rather peculiar noises. Dr Ishaq returned 10 minutes later with a calm face just in time to finish the tour; it turns out he had casually delivered a baby while he was away, and we knew no better. Together with the maternity ward staff, he helps to deliver 3,000 + babies a year!

Wrapping up this blog now as getting rather late and have the Kiwoko Chase tomorrow (…in a bunny costume).
The staff go beyond the call of duty and are an inspiration! The success they share is a testament to the hard work and dedication.

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