Becoming a Neonatal Therapist had never crossed Tadeo Kigozi’s mind, until he saw a job ad in a paper in Kampala. Now he is Uganda’s first Neonatal Therapist, working in the Kiwoko Hospital neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
Tadeo’s passion is infectious, his words heart-felt and his quiet confidence likely to set a room alight with smiles and laughter. In the Kiwoko NICU you’ll find him moving from one incubator to the next, ensuring the environment is conducive to healthy development. He looks at home here but admits that becoming a Neonatal Therapist wasn’t always part of his plan. Tadeo had dreamt of becoming a doctor, but sadly didn’t receive the marks.
“But when one door of happiness closes, another door opens,” Tadeo says, always the optimist.
Instead of studying medicine as he’d thought he would, Tadeo received a government supported place to study Occupational Therapy. When he finished his studies, he began work as a Paediatric Occupational Therapist.
“In November 2018, I had a chance to attend a meeting for planning the national budget at the offices of the National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda,” Tadeo explains. “During the meeting, a member said that we should start thinking about budgeting for prevention of disabilities rather than waiting for them to happen.
“When I saw the advert from Kiwoko in need of a Neonatal Therapist, I felt like I was granted a steppingstone down this preventive path.”
Now, Tadeo is the Neonatal Therapist working as part of Adara’s Hospital to Home (H2H) project. H2H has two components: strengthening hospital discharge processes and a six-month follow-up programme for babies discharged from the NICU.
Tadeo is part of the hospital component of the project. He works as a team to create an environment that promotes healthy development and growth, so babies have the best chance to survive and thrive upon discharge from the NICU. This includes ensuring babies are positioned appropriately, making sure unnecessary noise in the unit is kept to a minimum and working to soothe babies in distress. He also works closely with parents, helping to equip them with the skills to support their baby when they return home.
Tadeo is flourishing in the role but remembers his first nervous day in the NICU.
So Tadeo was ready to provide the best care to his patients, he received training from Lauren Adams, a Neonatal Physiotherapist from Seattle. Lauren is part of Adara’s international medical volunteer team. She spent three weeks working with Tadeo, teaching him to create a healing environment for babies in the NICU, including providing supportive positioning and handling; minimising stress and pain; protecting sleep and skin; supporting feeding; and partnering with families to help them succeed.
Tadeo is now embedded in the fabric of the NICU. In fact, you’ll even hear people ask, “But Tadeo only works five days, what do we do on the other two?”
From all reports, no one is really surprised that Uganda’s first neonatal therapist is in the Kiwoko NICU. After all, the unit is a centre of excellence and at the cutting edge of facility-based care in low-resource settings.
But the fact that the unit has someone as dedicated as Tadeo – well, that’s pretty special.