Saving a Life

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DSC00681On the night before I was supposed to leave the birth center in Atiak, a woman came in, laboring actively. I’d had a sense she was coming, and now she was here! Sumia is fifteen years old.

Sumia’s labor was difficult for her, but she endured. Eventually, I was able to check her and let her know that she was completely dilated and effaced, with only a slight anterior lip, and she would soon be able to push her baby out. After SROM on the birth stool, I expected her pushes to effectively bring the baby down, but pushing took three and a half hours.

As it turned out, the the baby’s head was asynclitic. And the baby had her cord around her neck. As the baby’s head emerged, I tried to slip the cord over her head. When this did not work easily, I summersaulted the baby out, turning her face to her mother’s thigh as the head restituted and ducking her head down while bringing her body up so that the cord would not hold her back. As I did so, I said to midwife Stephanie, who was with me, “This baby has no tone.” She didn’t. And she was blue.

“Stimulate her,” Stephanie said, and I did, as Stephanie got the resuscitation equipment. Baby was skin-to-skin with her mom, her belly on her mother’s belly and her head turned over her mother’s side to allow for positional drainage of her nose and throat. I was rubbing her down with a cloth to try to get her to warm up and cry, breathe or move in some way. Nothing.

Stephanie quickly bulb-suctioned the baby and then used to delee to clear her airway. We lay the baby on the cloth-covered board and put her head in the “sniffing position” in order to give her puffs of air from the ambu bag. It was one of the most intense moments of my life:  laying that baby down and still seeing no tone, no movement. We lifted the board onto the mother’s belly to avoid straining the cord. “Talk to your baby,” Stephanie told the mom.

Stephanie gave me the stethoscope, and I put it against the baby girl’s chest. Hope! Her heart was hammering away — very healthy. I checked the cord: it was still pulsing. The baby was still getting oxygen through her cord.

Stephanie affixed the mouthpiece of the ambu bag to the baby’s face. I carefully drew out a piece of cloth that had gotten caught between the baby’s mouth and the mouthpiece; now the seal would be good, and the air would go into the baby’s lungs. Stephanie squeezed the bag, and the breath of life went into the baby.

Within a few minutes, the baby cried, albeit weakly. “Look,” I said, “she’s pinking up.” And she was. She was cyanotic at her extremities, but she was finally transitioning to life outside the womb. It was so good to see the muscles of her face move! To see her feet and hands begin to move! “She’s breathing,” I said, and I gave the stethoscope to Stephanie so she could listen to this baby’s healthy, happy heart.

We cleaned up, placing baby skin to skin with her mother. She began breastfeeding well in the night. Everything turned out well by God’s grace.

We named the baby Stacey. Stacey comes from the Greek name Anastasia. It means “resurrection.”

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