November is dedicated towards awareness creating on the issue of Premature Babies. Did you know that 1 in every 10 births is born prematurely? Did you also know that NICU is a place where preterm babies are taken care of?
In case you are wondering what NICU is; it is an abbreviation for Neonatal (Newborn) Intensive Care Unit. This unit within any medical center specializes in the care of ill or premature babies.
This write up seeks to chronicle my encounter at the NICU when I had a preterm baby a year ago.
My pregnancy journey was a tough one as I have already shared in my previous post .
My doctor had already psyched me up to the possibility of my daughter being born preterm and spending time at the NICU. But I was still in for a surprise.
As I walked into the NICU on Wednesday 26th of September 2018 with my husband; we were greeted with “its not time for the mothers to come and see their babies”
I gathered every bit of strength left in my voice and I told the nurse I had her on Monday and I had not seen her till that day because I was not fit to walk to the NICU all this while. Then she replies ” ok you have 5 minutes”
The warmth that I felt when I finally saw my daughter for the first time cannot be described. She had my name on the bracelet which she wore on the left wrist, with details about time and date of birth and her birth weight .
Visiting time to the NICU for mothers was 9am, 12pm, 3pm and 6pm. The routine for visiting our babies was to queue up at the entrance of the NICU until we are asked to come in. Every mother is required to wash and towel dry their hands at the entrance before we enter any of the cubicles to touch our babies .
There are different cubicles for different babies. First cubicle houses very small babies who are kept in the incubators. Cubicle two is home to babies who are a little bit bigger than their mates in the first. Babies in cubicle three are not in incubators, so mothers who had babies in this cubicle had to breastfeed their babies during the visit. The rule in that cubicle is to grab a plastic seat, find a place to sit, sanitize your hands (because you could have picked germs from the chair ) before you touch your baby.
It is hard to have a restricted time to feed babies. There are times when the baby is asleep the whole time, but you need to tap their feet so hard to get them to cry and wake them up to eat.
During each visit, we have an hour to breastfeed, change diaper and bond with our babies before the time is up. Babies are bathed twice a week; and that is on Tuesdays and Fridays during the 9am visit . On those days, we walk into cubicle 3 as usual and after all the hygienic procedure is followed, mothers will be given a bowl of warm water with a towel which has soap rubbed in it for cleaning baby from hair to toe; before breastfeeding .
In the third cubicle, since the babies there are not places in incubators, they are supposed to be clothed but there is hardly enough clothes in there for all the babies. My daughter was covered in sheets all the time. I had no idea the mothers had to “fight” over the clothes. I never bothered because spending time with my daughter was more important . The temperature in that cubicle was always 16 degrees .
The NICU provides baby formula for babies who’s mothers miss the planned visits. Again if a mother has no milk supply, the mother can request for a cup of formula to feed the baby. Here is the catch, you will have to prove it by squeezing your nipple to the nurse on duty to show that your milk supply has not started flowing.
One afternoon I walked into the NICU to see my daughter’s cot stained with a lot of blood. I queried the student doctor in the cubicle and she says “sorry her infusion came off without anyone noticing ” I was fuming at the explanation but I told myself it was only temporary.
My daughter had Neonatal Jaundice at the NICU and so she spent time under the light. Usually their eyes are covered with a gauze and plaster . My daughter’s own had come off one time when I went in, I politely asked the nurse to replace it because the UV light is not safe for eyes. She rudely told me to put her back under the light and that she will fix it later. So I turned the UV light off and left my naked baby in there. That was one of the days I cried so hard and asked God to protect my daughter.
During the afternoon visit, the replacement had not been done. Her eyes were still exposed to the UV light . Thankfully there was another team on duty so I asked for the replacement and I got it immediately to cover her eyes.
Walking into the NICU every time was scary because you never know what awaits you. An empty cot was the worse that could happen. As I walked into cubicle 3, my baby was not at her usual spot. That moment I died and resurrected. I asked the nurse about where my baby was; her cot had been shifted away to a different location….Sigh
Some mothers are encouraged to do the Kangaroo Mother Care. (KMC), sometimes called skin-to-skin contact. This is a technique of newborn care where babies are kept chest-to-chest and skin-to-skin with a parent, typically their mother. It is most commonly used for low birth-weight preterm babies, who are more likely to suffer from hypothermia while admitted to the NICU to keep the baby warm and support early breastfeeding
Through my stay at the NICU I realized how under resourced the unit was. That led to the founding of my charity project Friends Of NICU .
We provide both medical and non medical support to NICU’s in Ghana. Again we help mothers who are not able to pay their hospital bills. We started of by donating to Korlebu Teaching Hospital in December 2018. So far, we have had two donation exercises and the third is coming up this Christmas.
We are gradually extending help to other regions in Ghana. This December the Bono East Region will have their first donation in Techiman.
World Prematurity Day is Marked Worldwide yearly on the 17th of November. The celebration started in 2008 and it has been celebrated as such ever since.
The color for prematurity is Purple which signifies sensitivity (of preemie babies) and exceptionality (they are fighters, worriers and special)
Every child born before 37 weeks is considered preterm. Worldwide about 15million children are born prematurely every year . Over 1 million do not survive.
Here in Ghana, 144,000 children are born preterm every year. Out of this figure, about 9,000 do not survive.
The theme for 2019 celebration is “ Born too Soon: Providing the right care, at the right time, in the right place.“
Providing Right Care ; In Europe, any baby who is born from 23 weeks (6 months) upwards has the chance to survive because they are advanced in their health care service .
Whereas here in Ghana, it is 28weeks ( 7 months) and older. This means that if a baby arrives earlier than 28 weeks, it is considered late miscarriage in Ghana.
There is still room for improvement; by way of research, education and continuous improvement.
Right Time: when it comes to taking care of preemies, every second counts that determines if the baby will survive or not .
Right Place; the facilities we have are inadequate and over stretched .
The reason we need more hands on deck to support our NICU’s to be able to take care of preemies.
You can show your support to Preemies today 17th of November by wearing Purple.
Follow our social media pages; take a picture of yourself wearing purple and tag us on Facebook and Instagram
You can also support our charity project by contacting us on +233262385519. or through email email@example.com
Be a a Friend Of NICU today . ￼
Support us to put smiles on the faces of some mothers in our December donation.
No contribution is too small.