Recently there have been two sick children in our neonatal intensive care unit. The first was baby born four months premature with respiratory failure and very low blood pressure. We kept her alive for many days with a breathing tube and a strong medicine to keep her heart going. Two days ago, we took away all of her support and she is surviving on her own! She is tolerating feeds via tube and is acting like a healthy baby.
The other was a full-term infant born with astronomically high pulmonary (lung) pressures. She could not get blood to her lungs. We also had to significantly support her breathing and heart, but after just a few days, she began to improve.
I think back to my days in the DR Congo when neither of these children would have had a chance of survival. Not even for an hour after birth.
What is the difference?
Well, I don’t think it is the doctor. I am the same person today that I was six months ago. It is really not the medicine either. We had antibiotics and medicine to maintain a patient’s blood pressure.
I think there are two main differences; the neonatal nursing and equipment.
First, the nurses here are dedicated, motivated and, more importantly, skilled and educated. They can perceive small changes in a child that most nurses and doctors cannot. I receive calls when a child has a hint of illness, not when a child is near dead.
Second, we have ventilators and more high-tech monitoring equipment here. It is very nice that I do not need to hand ventilate a baby for 48 hours or worry about the heart rate monitor breaking down.