Hello Dr Oppong, PSG has a phototherapy machine for your facility.” My prayers had been answered. The last time I got so excited about a gadget was when I got my first phone; you know the type- a Nokia 3310! (lol).
Twenty-four hours prior to this call from the Paediatric Society of Ghana, the Neonatal Care Unit (NCU) of the Asamang SDA Hospital had received a baby who required intensive phototherapy treatment. This baby had to share the available phototherapy unit with two other babies.
The following day, we received a set of preterm triplets! The biggest of the three babies weighed 1000g. Preterms are babies who are born too soon. As we know, these tiny precious babies are at an increased risk of jaundice compared to their full-term counterparts.
Phototherapy is a life-saving intervention for newborns who develop jaundice (yellowish discoloration of the eyes and the skin). Most parents whose babies required this treatment have come to know this as blue light.
Without early and appropriate care, some babies may go on to develop severe brain damage and die. For those who survive, they may delay in sitting, crawling, walking. Others may develop hearing problems.
Did I mention that the phototherapy machine was about 300 km away from my facility? Four days after the call, my neonatal care team was unwrapping a brand new phototherapy unit. Many thanks to our facility transport officer who shares in our passion for improving newborn care.
My NCU team members were very ecstatic. It had arrived just when the triplets had become clinically jaundiced. The gratitude and sense of relief on the faces of my hardworking nurses were palpable.
The triplets would not be sharing the old phototherapy machine with the other three babies. These babies would not be transferred to the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) to overburden the Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) of KATH. Thank you PSG! Ayekoo!!
Unfortunately, the jaundice was not the most bothersome problem with the triplets. They were born at 28 weeks’ gestation (they arrived 8-12 weeks earlier than expected). Their lungs were not matured. Their lungs were not fully prepared for breathing outside the womb.
From the very hour they were delivered, they needed breathing support. We put them on an improvised breathing support system. We have nicknamed this improvised system “Kumasi bottle CPAP” (KCPAP).
Those in the medical community refer to this device as a continuous positive airway pressure machine. Simply, CPAP!
I would share a picture of this improvised bottle CPAP. I would also share a picture of the actual CPAP machine that is available to babies born elsewhere on this same earth.
To be continued...
The writer is a Paediatrician and Child Health Advocate with the Asamang SDA Hospital, Sekyere South District, Ashanti Region