With several thousands of premature babies, mostly below 35-weeks, dying yearly in Nigeria due to lack of required facilities and expertise for their survival, Reddington Hospital has not only moved past this narrative, it has recently successfully managed a 25-week old baby who is now healthy enough to reunite with her family. Martins Ifijeh writes on this rare feat made by a Nigerian hospital in Nigeria
When Mr. and Mrs. Amadi (not real names) got married two years ago, all they wished for was to have a beautiful home free from pain and cries. they did not only pray for a good start to the new life, but hoped within one year, a cry of a baby will be heard in the home.
While other things were working as planned, it however took Mrs. Amadi almost a year and half before she took in. It was a dream come true for the home. They continued to envisage all the good life their unborn daughter would get; from vacations, to gifting her good toy cars, up to providing her with quality education. The family couldn’t wait to see her flesh and blood.
But at the fifth month, life almost served the family lemons. Mrs. Amadi woke up one morning and began to feel an unbearable cramp in her abdomen. She was rushed to her family hospital in Ajao where they placed her immediately on admission pending when diagnosis would determine what the real issue was. Within few minutes, she felt pressed to use the loo, but what eventually came out was her daughter; a little 25 weeks old beauty.
It was the scariest thing she has seen, considering the high rate of premature and neonatal death in Nigeria, and the declaration by the co-Founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates in 2017, that Nigeria is the fourth worst country on earth to give birth. She didn’t want to lose the baby she was already emotionally attached to. She felt this was the end of the road for her hope.
The hospital, however decided to make lemonades from the lemons life served her. They told her if there was an organisation with the facility and expertise to keep her baby alive, it had to be Reddington Hospital.
“They immediately contacted Reddington Hospital, and in no time, we saw ambulances, and other critical care machines. It was like what we see in movies. They evacuated my baby from Ajao down to Victoria Island. I was told by the hospital in Ajao that babies born at 25 weeks only has survival chances of 30 per cent even with the best of care. But today, the 800-gram baby 70 days ago is now weighing over 1.6 kg, and she is very healthy. She will be discharged any moment from now. I can’t believe we will be leaving this hospital with my 100 per cent healthy baby. This is a miracle I never hoped could happen in Nigeria,” she joyfully said.
While this is a first-of-its-kind feat in a Nigerian hospital, it is saddening that several thousands of premature babies die every year in the country due to lack of facilities and expertise to preserve them in incubators, treat corresponding health issues associated with pre-term, and restore these babies back to their parents.
This, among other indices has unfortunately earned Nigeria the fourth worst country on earth to give birth. It has also earned the country one of the worst indices on maternal and child health globally.
Speaking with the head of the team of doctors from Reddington Hospital, Dr. Rajasekar Rajkishore, on how they were able to keep a 25-week-old baby alive for 70 days until she was fully fit and ready to be united with her parents, he said the hospital has a specially designed neonatal intensive care unit for newborns with a level 3A state of the art facilities, and that he was specially trained to take care of neonates, especially pre-term cases.
Dr. Raj, as fondly called is a certified neonatologist and has treated over 700 babies in Africa and India.
According to him, “the hospital took deliberate decisions to invest in state-of-the-art facilities for this kind of challenge. With my training and experience in this area as well, we are not surprised our little baby is in good shape.
“Among the facilities here are six bedded ICU with latest incubators, ventilators, inbuilt ultrasound machines for each bed, cardiac monitoring, among others. We are specialists in doing ventilation. We believe with this facilities and expertise, no child in Nigeria deserves to die because of lack of treatment, every child deserves a chance to live.”
Narrating Reddington’s first contact with the baby, Dr. Raj said immediately the unit was called upon, a medical team quickly set out to Ajao, and then transported her in a specialised way down to Reddington.
“Transporting extremely premature babies is challenging, and if not done well could easily cause the death of that child. Many of these babies die during transportation, but I am specially trained in transporting babies. I have transported babies 300 kilometres in India by road which is not possible here because of the road layouts in Nigeria. In Reddington, we transport babies free of charge with a neonatologist on board. We have a specially designed ambulance and equipment, monitors, transport incubators, among others.
“One of the major challenges we had to tackle here are inability to maintain blood sugar level, multiple episodes of vomiting, poor breathing, poor digestion of foods, among others. I, along with my team put our skills together to ensure the baby is healthy in the end.”
He said the hospital was presently training six medical personnel on the specialised skill.
On his part, Consultant Paediatrician and Head, Paediatric Department, Reddington Hospital, Dr. Olajide Ojo, who was also a critical team player in the treatment of the baby, said what the hospital has done was to improve service delivery to any level three ICU anywhere in the world, adding that this was because the hospital hopes to change the maternal and infant mortality indices in the country.
“One of the things deemed acknowledging is the referral system. The hospital in Ajao knew this was purely beyond what they could handle, and they called us in on time. Immediately they called us, we did all we had to do because every baby born, whether preterm or at the normal term deserve to live.”
He said it was important other hospitals in Nigeria invest in this level of care, adding that Reddington has provided a standard that can be followed.
“We are also looking at collaborating with other hospitals, both teaching and private ones so that there can be exchange programmes in the event that they do not have some of these facilities in their hospitals, they can come in here, spend sometime to learn, because the more health personnel are trained, the better for the Nigerian child,” he said.
With the little baby now healthy and strong enough to be discharged, the Amadis hoped soon they will invite friends and family members, as well as the ‘super extra-ordinary team of professionals in Reddington’, to attend the naming ceremony of their bundle of joy.