4:30 pm hits and the patients roll in thick and fast. Floppy children carried in their parent’s arms, pale and lethargic. They are laid naked on a bed in REA (emergency), feverish and dehydrated. After a month here I cannot count the number of children I have seen and cared for like this. Some pull through and others don’t, despite our best efforts.
This week we had a small child carried into REA unconscious and unresponsive to pain with irregular eye movements. His heartbeat was steadily drumming away, too fast for his age. We acted quickly to monitor him and get an IV in. I had a bag-valve-mask (ambu bag) ready because I’d learnt from my prior experience.
As I looked over him, assessing him without even realising I was doing so, I noticed his breaths were shallow and sporadic. He wasn’t filling his lungs and moving air to oxygenate his body. We grabbed the bag-valve-mask and started bagging him for support.
After about 15 mins with no change in his respiratory effort the Dr told us to stop and just put an oxygen mask on and go to look after the other sick kids. I looked up at her and the other nurse standing with me at the airway. Did she mean what I thought she meant? I understood why. We have to work as if this is disaster triage. You save the ones you can and let those who are going to die, die. Everything in me screamed out to not walk away though. He would die without airway support. How could I walk away from him and just leave him there? I looked at the relatives faces, knowing it’s their faces that I remember long after the child has died because it’s their hearts I see break.
So we stopped what we were doing and left him there on the bed, naked, with an oxygen mask on his face, IV dripping, cardiac leads on his chest and a relative at his bedside. I prayed the same prayer I say multiple times a day, Jesus help. It was awful just walking away.
He hung on though, despite barely breathing. Overnight he regained consciousness and started moving. By the morning he could sit up and when I came back on shift he cried for two hours saying he wanted to go home! He perked up so much he was able to sit on his mama’s lap and eat spaghetti for breakfast. Amazing!! Seriously miraculous. We have no idea how he’s still alive, except for God’s power.
In the paediatric ward and ICU I’ve looked after a lot of different types of patients but there has always been at least one premature baby. I had no idea when I arrived that 2 shifts in special care nursery in the hospital at home in Australia would be so helpful now. I’ve now cared for 5 different premature babies, all weighing less than 1.5kgs. It has been a learning curve complicated by lack of clean sheets, no nappies, limited neonatal IV supplies and most of the isolette cribs need a service and so don’t heat well or at all. But I love these babies and have enjoyed seeing them and their dedicated mamas every day. They are a rainbow of beauty in the midst of the shadow of pain and loss of some of the other patients. We are struggling with some of these precious babies to gain weight. Please pray for these little ones. None of them are given names until they leave the hospital.
Thank you so much for praying and walking this journey with me. After so much grief and loss a couple of weeks ago, I was lifted by your prayers and comments of support and love. Please continue to pray, not just for me but the team here and those who work and live in Mango and face the reality of life here every day. It is a truly beautiful country, with friendly, strong, courageous people.