One Friday morning just this past month a beautiful baby girl was born at a hospital in Addis Ababa. After the delivery, the doctor sent this sweet baby home with first time mother, despite the baby showing signs of sepsis. Our DHI Birth Worker, Genet, did her job well and monitored the baby from home and called our director when she noticed that the baby had a fever and was having spasms/ seizures in her arm.
Recognizing these warning signs, we picked up the newborn baby and her mother, Emebet, and rushed them to a private clinic to assess the situation. There, the doctor told us that the baby had sepsis and that we needed to get to a hospital immediately.
Sepsis is a life-threatening condition and a major factor in the high infant mortality that we see in developing countries. For a baby with sepsis, each passing minute decreases the chance of survival.
Once at the hospital, we rushed past emergency and went straight to the NICU. Our director, Ruth, has the natural ability to smile and with her kind words soften anyone’s heart, while making things happen with strength and force when necessary. We needed Ruth’s medical background as she was able to pick up on mistakes being made by medical staff, and ensure that the baby was getting the attention it required.
The process here is that the hospital does not provide medications or equipment. Instead, the patient, or someone accompanying the patient, must go to a pharmacy with a list of medications and supplies, purchase them all, and then bring them to the medical staff for use. Oftentimes the hospital does not have the supplies and medications necessary, and therefore one must search all over the city at other pharmacies for the items necessary for treatment. Additionally, no medical service is given prior to paying for the specific service/ procedure. So it was back and forth to the hospital pharmacy and then also to pharmacies outside of the hospital, and back and forth to the cashier, all while we prayed and hoped this precious baby’s life would be spared.
Because of the seizures and facial palsy we needed to know if there were any underlying causes other than the sepsis. Again, having an MRI and ultrasound was not something that could be done at the major hospital and we had to travel to another medical facility, with baby, parents, doctor and large oxygen tank all in tow.
While we waited for the MRI we were able to speak to the doctor who had accompanied us. Sadly he further painted a picture of the medical system here. He told us that he sees hundreds of patients each day, with only about a minute consultation with each one. “Most of the babies come to us with no hope of surviving. There is really nothing we can do. We have lost the battle before they arrive.”
And so, frightened and confused parents have not other choice but wait in a crowded stairwell of the hospital, sleeping on hard, cold floors overnight until someone eventually emerges to inform them that their baby has died. This is such a grim picture and impressed on our hearts the intense need for servants like our DHI Birth Workers – who are truly the eyes on the ground and who can help to educate parents and assist them in accessing medical treatment, advocating for their ethical care, as well as providing funding help in emergent situations like this one.
In the end, the baby girl of Emebet and Dawit – who has now been named “Betty” – survived. Because our Birth Worker Genet, was the eyes on the ground and had picked up on the warning signs, we were able to rush Betty to get life-saving medical treatment.
In this system however, without the constant advocacy of our director nurse, Ruth, Betty’s fate might have been different. Also, because of the tremendous support of strangers who provided funds, we were able to have the range of diagnostic tests necessary done for Betty, as well as pay for her medical bills upfront.
Life is different here. Parents don’t know when their baby is sick. They don’t have the resources to be able to jump in a car or call an ambulance to rush them to the emergency room in times of need, and because money is required upfront for services, they are usually unable to have their child treated. This baby, Betty, has reminded us of why we are here, and why our work is so very important… for we can literally save lives!
Betty is home now, with her smiling parents. “You saved our daughter” they told us with gratitude and thanks. To be a part of this story is the greatest privilege.
And there are so many similar stories to be a part of, but to continue our work, we need partners. As soon as we shared about Betty via facebook, we had hundreds of people praying and several donating funds to cover the cost of her medical bills. A huge thank you to all who supported this family through prayer and financial gifts – you personally helped save this sweet, innocent child’s life. What an amazing story to be a part of.
If you would consider giving to our “Betty fund”, we will continue to have the resources necessary to help other babies, just like Betty, have a chance at life.
Your Friends at DHI