Thriving despite a hard beginning - A story about a premature baby in Syria

December 4, 2013

Thriving despite a hard beginning - A story about a premature baby in Syria © Mario Travaini

I was the only midwife on the day Sedra’s* mother came to MSF’s hospital in Syria,” says Amanda Godballe, a Danish midwife for MSF. “She was only six months pregnant, but the delivery had already begun. She was expecting her first children – two twin girls. There was no way to stop the delivery as it was already too far along. In our hospital we had very limited possibilities of taking care of premature babies. We had no pediatricians, incubators, or medicine to treat babies this premature. And as I was the only midwife at the hospital that day I had to do some creative thinking, especially because I knew that the children were likely to need resuscitation to stabilize them enough to be transferred to a more fully equipped hospital over the border, where treatment was possible.”

“I got my Belgian co-worker and nurse to help me in the delivery room, although she had never assisted with a delivery before. But inexperienced hands are better than no hands! At the same time I had my good Syrian colleague to help me and also an interpreter.”

“Both children were quickly born. First Sedra – bottom first – and then her sister – also with her bottom first. They each weighed about 1,200 grams. Sedra was reasonably well stabilized with the help of an oxygen mask and an electric radiator to keep her warm. Unfortunately, her sister did not do as well. She died only 30 minutes old. Sedra was transferred to the border, in one of MSF’s ambulances, along with her mother. And there I was, in the backseat of an ambulance with a teeny tiny vulnerable human being, who had so many odds stacked against her. At the border we had to wait, and when the medics finally came I had to hand them the small bundle across the barbed wire fence, drive back to our makeshift hospital, and hope for the best.”

Follow-up of this story - In September, MSF logistician, Mario Travaini was working in the same makeshift hospital in Syria. He met Sedra and her mother when they visited the hospital to get Sedra’s birth certificate and thank the staff. In the picture Sedra is shown with Norwegian midwife Mali Ibrahhimi.

“It is touching to hear how they have done afterward,” says Amanda, now back in Denmark. “Sedra is doing well despite her hard beginning, which was followed by 24 days in an incubator. It is experiences of this kind that give you a sense of purpose. I can only do what I can with the limited resources available to me, but even that makes a difference.”

*name changed

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