Glistening fufu, chicken soup and a preemie queen

BY: Dr Adoma Odame
Preemie Queen
Preemie Queen

I came home from church that Sunday thinking about the chicken soup I had in the freezer. The moment I took off my heels and dangling earrings, I went straight to the kitchen to prepare fufu.

There’s nothing nicer than eating fufu on a Sunday afternoon. You get so drowsy afterwards that you just doze off pleasantly and wake up hearing the frogs croaking in the early evening.

And the chicken! There is pure unadulterated joy in eating chicken soup made with our homegrown chickens.

When the fufu was ready, I poured the sumptuous soup over it, took a picture of the food and sent it to a friend in Europe just to make her jealous.

I washed my hands and was about to take the first mouthful when my phone rang. It was the hospital newborn unit calling. I picked it up and asked what was up.

Call from hospital

The nurse said, “please come quickly, we can’t get a line for baby Nkunim and she is nil per os”. I asked if everyone had tried. They had. I asked if my best nurses and anaesthetist had tried. They had.

I looked at the glistening fufu and sighed.

You see, a couple of weeks ago, a tiny preterm baby had been born. The baby was clearly not ready for our world as she was too small and couldn’t breathe well. My hospital wasn’t ready for her either.

I didn’t have an incubator to help keep her safe and warm, I didn’t have a CPAP machine to help her breathe and my phototherapy machine was temperamental. But here she was. She had arrived.

My team gave her the best care we could. We religiously tried to prevent her from getting infections, we kept her warm under a radiant warmer when she was very unstable.

On few occasions, she became pretty bad and I once saw Annette and Barikisu (two of my best nurses) hurriedly moving her to the children’s ward to give her oxygen whilst trying to figure out how to protect her from the noise in the ward.

Baby Nkunim

She was a feisty little thing with a will to live. She was our first preterm baby since we started the hospital nursery and we named her Baby Nkunim, signifying the victory we would have in caring for her.

My staff adored her and would talk soothingly to her as they put a tube through her nose into her belly to feed her or as they cleaned her minute cord. She was so fragile. A typical preterm baby.

Preterm babies are babies who are born before 37 completed weeks. These babies may be born early because their mum may have a problem like high blood pressure, high blood sugar or even malaria.

Sometimes, the baby may come out too soon because of problems with the mum’s womb or sometimes, it may be because mum started bleeding during the pregnancy.

Regardless of the cause, preterm babies have a number of things in common. Many are tiny, with fragile soft skin and have fine hair over their back. They are vulnerable little babies as they need help with feeding, have difficulty breathing and staying warm.

Preterm babies need a lot of effort to help them survive, especially on the part of healthcare workers and parents. They must be kept with their parents and one of the ways we ensure this is by the KANGAROO CARE.

Preterm care

Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) is this beautiful way of caring for a preterm baby that addresses the needs of the baby. The baby is carried naked in between the mother’s breasts in the same way that the joey of a kangaroo is carried in its mum’s pouch.

It’s amazing and it really works. The babies become nicely fattened up, their heart beat and breathing become regular, and it’s great for their brain development.

Keeping preemies and their parents together is so important to help them survive.

Baby Nkunim gradually began to improve with Kangaroo Mother care, gaining weight steadily and sometimes stressing her mum out since she would take forever to feed only to bring it back up.