Celebrating milestones of premature babies! On 3rd June 2015 Seshego Hospital, one of the District Hospitals in Capricorn District of Limpopo, pulled all stops in celebrating the development of their premature babies born since 2013, as part of commemorating World Children’s Day.
The event was one of jubilation, acknowledgement of successes in newborn care, and instilling a sense of pride amongst health care workers who for the best part become engrossed in life and death situations, with very little, if any, time to stop and reflect on the fruits of their hard labour in the maternity and neonatal units. The event presented an opportunity for professionals at the cold face of newborn care to take a few hours to witness the outcomes of premature babies whose lives they worked tirelessly to save, thriving as toddlers and even young adults.
More than 60 mothers and babies ranging from a few months to 2 years braved the cold to celebrate the achievements of the babies whose lives were at one point hanging by a thread. Success stories of partnerships between the health sector and parents of premature babies were in abundance, with babies, toddlers and young boys and girls who once too were premature, portraying a picture of health, happiness and longevity!
A key observation, which lends itself to the success of Seshego Hospital, is the commendable leadership exhibited by the management of the hospital. The CEO was actively involved in conceptualizing, planning and initiating the event, supported by the neonatal nurse, pediatrician, operational manager and matron. The synergistic collaboration of the multidisciplinary team in planning and hosting the event was exemplary to say the least.
The critical role played by dedicated and committed health professionals in the care and well being of newborns was appreciated and commended by the mothers of the premature babies that were in attendance. Katlego, brimming and radiant at 1 year 4 months was born 6 months premature, weighing a meager 1,5kg. Her mother recalls the shock of seeing Katlego for the first time after birth, small and vulnerable whilst on oxygen and fed with a tube. She credits Sr Mothapo for helping and supporting her through the challenging period in hospital. “All the staff would teach me what to do so I did everything for Katlego in the nursery. I expressed milk and she was fed through a tube”.
Katlego’s mom is amazed by the incredible progress that she has made since birth: “I was in total disbelief at how small she was. Now, I’m in total disbelief at how well she’s developed. She seems very advanced for her age!”
Dr Modiba, the sessional paediatrician, couldn’t hide his sheer pride and exhilaration as he walked around the hall greeting all the tiny special guests whose lives were once in his hands. “It makes me so proud to see all the babies healthy and happy…thriving. We are supposed to see them one month after discharge but this isn’t possible due to human resource constraints. So when the child reaches more than 2,5kg, we refer them to the clinic”.
Mary Baloyi, 18 years old and a premature baby ambassador in Seshego, was born 6 months premature weighing 1,1kg. Mary, currently in grade 12, is a ball of energy, confidence and self determination, a true example to all young people, but more especially a beacon of hope to parents of premature babies. Mary credits her mother’s love, support and patience to her overcoming all the odds of a premature baby. “My mother never underestimated me because I was very small. She was always patient and took her time to raise me. She knew that I was going to be something one day…I was going to be an achiever one day. I am very grateful to my mother and I want her to know that I appreciate her”.
Mary also acknowledges the support of the community and health workers who she perceives to believe that premature babies are born “at the right time”. She reiterated the need for parents to be proud of their premature babies and not discredit their abilities because of their size. “They shouldn’t see this as a punishment. They should see prematures as a gift from God”.
Sr Mothapo, through the decisive leadership of Sr Moabelo the CEO of Seshego Hospital, is a dedicated neonatal nurse who does not rotate, as is a common practice in the neonatal unit throughout the province. Rotation of trained and competent neonatal nurses has been a hindrance to improving newborn care and outcomes in the province. Limpopo Initiative for Newborn Care (LINC) advocates for non-rotation of trained neonatal nurses and this recommendation was taken and effected by the CEO.
Sr Mothapo is in charge of the neonatal unit and has daily interactions with preterm babies and their mothers, proving support to especially those struggling with feeding. She has also extended her support by visiting mothers at home after the babies have been discharged, to assess if they are coping and settling well with their babies. She goes beyond the call of duty by taking the mothers’ cellular phone numbers and calling them during the very early days at home to assess if they are experiencing difficulties, especially with feeding. Sr Mothapo praised the mothers for their cooperation and dedication to ensuring that their babies get the best possible care. Championed by Sr Mothapo, Seshego Hospital is initiating a premature babies parents’ support group. LINC will be providing support in the form of technical assistance and documentation of the process.
Seven months old twins Lethabo and Thabang, in their little bright outfits, were a perfect picture of health and contentness, with their mother brimming from ear to ear when sharing their story with the audience.
A long day for the little special guests, but ended as jubilant and filled with hope as it had started. Long live premies long live!!!