OkaZHI: Okanagan-Zambia Health Initiative

Finding Strength…

       As we entered the Maternity Ward this morning, we were filled with excitement at the thought of
bringing new babies into the world. If either of us had known that today could possibly be the most
difficult day we’ve had in our nursing careers, I doubt either of us would have gotten out of bed this morning. It happened in the afternoon, at the very end of our shift. Alicia had never seen a c-section or a Caesar,   as the Zambians call it, and even though I ‘ve seen a few now, the sight of a new baby being brought into world warms my heart and I willingly take any and every opportunity to be a part of it.
       The patient was 16 years old and this was her first baby. The midwives informed us that she had been fully dilated since 1700 hrs last night, but the baby had not yet entered the birth canal. As you may or may not know, there is an increased risk of infection once the cervix is completely dilated. The doctor did his best to induce her this afternoon, but it was unsuccessful and they made the decision to take her to the operating theatre. We tagged along, stethoscopes and ambu-bag in hand, ready to help deliver the baby. As the doctor cut into her abdomen and opened her womb, we began to notice a strange odour. The baby’s head had already begun it s descent into the birth canal and he had become stuck. We watched in horror as the doctor and midwife pushed and pulled every which way, desperately trying to free the head and get the baby out. After what felt like an eternity, the doctor pulled him from the womb. He was pale in color and the cord was wrapped around his neck. As the doctor handed him to the awaiting nurse, we listened for the telltale cry, but the baby made no sound. The nurse placed him on the warmer and we rushed over to help. We suctioned him, inserted an airway, bagged him, and did compressions on his tiny chest, but he would not breathe on his own. We continued to try to resuscitate him for quite some time, but soon we realized that he wasn ‘t going to wake up. I put my stethoscope to his chest for the very last time and heard nothing. We looked over at the mother, lying on the table, watching us as we tried and tried, but could not save her baby. When we left the OR and entered the changing room, we fell to pieces. We could not speak, we could only cry. Why hadn ‘t anyone intervened earlier? We had so many questions. Especially, could we have done more? No. We did everything that we could possibly do in that moment. We couldn ‘t save him.
       It will be hard to face going back to the Maternity Ward tomorrow as this is weighing heavy on
our hearts, but tomorrow is a new day and another opportunity to bring new life into this world. We
take comfort and find strength in that.

Meagan M and Alicia

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