For more than 20 years, we have had the great pleasure of partnering with Kiwoko Hospital in Central Uganda to develop a country-leading neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This NICU is a source of hope and inspiration for others working in newborn health in low-resource settings globally. It cares for more than 1,300 babies every year and is recognised as a centre of excellence in newborn health by the Ugandan Ministry of Health.
Over its impressive 20-year history, Kiwoko has seen thousands of babies graduate from the NICU. One of those babies is Joseph, whose family is no stranger to Kiwoko Hospital.
Immaculate cradles three-month-old Joseph on her lap. They sit on the front porch of a house on the Kiwoko Hospital grounds. Birds chirp and people chatter in the distance; Joseph occasionally lets out a small cry in response. Immaculate smiles down at him as if it’s the most beautiful sound in the world.
Immaculate is a seasoned midwife, having worked in the Kiwoko Hospital maternity ward for eight years. She could tell thousands of stories about hearing the cries of newborns as they’re born and the contented sighs of new mothers as they gaze lovingly down at their babies. But this time she has her own story to tell.
Baby Joseph had a difficult start to life. He was delivered by caesarean section and Immaculate began to haemorrhage shortly after his birth. Immaculate was bleeding to death and needed immediate emergency care. The nursing team and medical staff were able to control the haemorrhage and Immaculate was saved.
“After being resuscitated, I came back to life and then Joseph got a problem,” Immaculate recalls. He wasn’t breastfeeding and was experiencing problems with his digestive system.
Joseph was admitted to the Kiwoko Hospital NICU. On arrival, staff began to monitor Joseph’s vitals. He was connected to a feeding tube and IV to ensure he received the medicine and nutrients his little body needed. Immaculate was grateful to have access to this country-leading NICU that could save her son’s life.
Over many years, we have worked with Kiwoko Hospital to develop a NICU that is now recognised as a centre of excellence by the Ugandan Ministry of Health.
Together, Adara and Kiwoko opened a small unit in 2000. Over time, the unit has grown to address increasing demand. In developing the unit, we have had a laser focus on providing care to at-risk babies; designing and delivering nurse and midwife training; and equipping and resourcing Kiwoko Hospital to ensure quality care in the NICU.
For many days, Joseph showed no signs of improvement. He struggled to absorb nutrients and was losing weight as a result. For the next two weeks, Immaculate stayed by her son’s side in the NICU.
“The people there in the NICU working on Joseph were so encouraging. Really, they gave me hope,”– Immaculate Nakku
Eventually, under the skilled care of the NICU staff, Joseph started to breastfeed and grow. Immaculate was able to take her new son home.
But the support Immaculate and Joseph received doesn’t stop there. Until six months of age, they will receive in-home follow-up care to help Joseph thrive. Through a programme called Hospital to Home, Immaculate received training in the NICU on what to expect after taking Joseph home.
“This means you don’t live in fear,” Immaculate says. “I know what is taking place in my baby because I was told, ‘When you see that his temperature is rising, please call. When you see that the baby is getting yellow, please call. When you see that the baby is not breastfeeding, please call’.”
Now Joseph is flourishing and Immaculate has returned to work in the Kiwoko maternity ward. She is armed with a new perspective of the challenges that sick newborns and their families face. When facilities are supported to provide quality maternal and newborn care, stories of success like Immaculate and Joseph’s become the norm. Women are provided with the care they need during and after birth; newborns have access to high-quality care through dedicated newborn units; parents receive support on taking their children home; and families and communities thrive.