As a doc at a hospital in an underdeveloped country, I see and deal with some pretty tough situations. I have already shared with you about some of them. One of the more difficult for me is the death of a child. I had never seen a kiddo die before coming to PNG. I am sorry to say that it is not infrequent here... a baby or young child who comes in too late or too sick for us to help. We don't have the right labs, medicines, equipment, vents, enough nurses, or just whatever we need to save this little life. It just plain stinks.
I was seeing a patient in clinic this morning when a nursing student knocked on my exam room door. Two babies were doing poorly and I was urgently needed in the nursery. I rushed over to D ward and I found the nurses working on two very sick babies. One was born overnight and was turning blue, just about as blue as any baby I have seen. The more critical one wasn't breathing at all.
Baby of Lucy was born early this morning. The delivery was uncomplicated and baby was strong at birth, receiving apgars of 10 and 10. Lucy was a first time mother and didn't notice anything unusual other than crying. Sister Sylvia, charge nurse on D ward, just happened to come by and found that the baby wasn't breathing at all. He was rushed into the nursery and the nurses began breathing for him or "bagging" with a bag and mask. This is the point where I walked in. I assessed the baby and found the heart rate to be strong, no murmur, and breath sounds good with assistance. But every time we stopped bagging the baby just wouldn't breathe. Mr. David, our nurse anesthetist, came to intubate... I hoped that if we just helped him for a little while then maybe he would start up on his own again. An IV was placed, glucose and antibiotics and aminophylline were given. The baby moved around and even pulled out the tube, but he just wouldn't breathe. With the tube out, the nurse began bagging again.
Things didn't look good. If this little one didn't start breathing on his own and soon, he would probably die. We don't have a ventilator nor the staff to manually bag one sick baby for more than an hour or two. I was frustrated, even mad that we would have to let this beautiful baby die. The nurses and I prayed with mother, asking Jesus to give breath to her son. I told the nurses to continue bagging while I went to lunch. If the baby wasn't breathing by the time I returned, we would stop.
I popped by the Myers house on the way home to lunch. Dr. Susan is a pediatrician, and I always appreciate her input. She affirmed that I was already doing everything there was to do. Jeff said a word of prayer.
After lunch, I walked back onto D ward with heavy steps. I dreaded telling the mom that her baby was going to die, watching her hold him as his heart stopped beating and life left the little body. I was surprised to see Sister Sylvia coming toward me with a huge smile. Oh, me of little faith! The baby had finally started breathing on his own and was doing well. I checked on him after clinic and he looked great, ready to eat. Oh, and by the way... blue baby was doing much better, too. Sister Sylvia and I prayed together, a prayer of thanksgiving to God for giving breath of life to baby of Lucy.
I wonder what special plan He has in store for this little one?
"The Spirit of God has made me;
the breath of the Almighty gives me life."