Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hand Expressing Life!

Last week, a day and a half old baby was brought in with pneumonia secondary to meconium aspiration. (For those who don’t know, meconium is a baby’s first bowel movement. If lots of meconium is passed while still in utero, it increases the risk of the baby developing pneumonia if it is breathed in at birth.)

The tiny girl was seen by both Tom and Dennis, who started her on antibiotics. Her lungs were junky and her respirations were outrageously high (120-140s). It was hard to watch her fight for each breath and even harder to hear the clunk of each gasp. 

When I met her later that evening, I asked her mom if she had breastfed at all. She just shook her head and explained something about the doctors giving her oral rehydration fluid, but that was hours ago.

Confused, I dug a little more for clarification. This is what I was told: The mom had told the doctors she had no milk and they were unable to start an IV, so they resorted to oral rehydration solution.

I asked her if I could try and see if there was any milk and she agreed. I was able to hand express loads of the white gold and we fed her baby with a syringe. The little girl, licked and sucked weakly at the taste. It melted my heart!

Then, I taught the mom how to do it herself, working with her until she got the hang of it all. She was so happy to see milk and know she could be feeding her baby. In her mind, her baby was not sick so much as starving. (And she was right!)

Excited to see she was so willing to hand express, I left her to it and promised to check on her regularly. But before I left, I prayed her baby would live through the night. Her breathing was so bad... I wasn’t sure it would happen.

The next morning I rejoiced to see her baby eating well -- wanting to latch but still too weak-- and miracle of miracles, breathing so much better. It didn’t sound like the same baby! The antibiotics were very effective.

She stayed a total of three days. We discharged them while still hand expressing but the mom assured me she would continue as long as necessary. She said she was confident God would help her baby live, and so am I.

Would you believe this is my third attempt at teaching ‘hand-expression’ to a Dinka woman. She is the first one to be willing to do it. The others claimed it was too painful (aka: not worth it) and one said she felt like a cow.

Her willingness to do this simple thing, in my opinion, is what gave her baby a chance at life. I haven’t seen them this week, but I’m sure they have come back. I’ll have to ask the doctors...