Fought their way into life

by Judith Große-Sudhues

“For over a week now, the national power supplier does not provide any electricity due to a defect in the substation. Presumably this problem won’t be solved until the end of the week. Therefore most wards are out of electricity at night. Except for the most important sections which were secured through batteries for the first couple of days: the laboratory with refrigerators, emergency room and the children’s ward. When required we were able to start the generator for surgery, which has been repaired and installed by our technician Marc only recently.

However, after two days the batteries were depleted. The situation was critical, because at this point three children were treated with oxygen in the pediatric ward. 9-month-old Jeremiah came through the power failure quite well despite of his pneumonia. Both other children were former premature babies and seriously ill. One of them struggled with severe malaria and has unfortunately passed away. The other boy, 3-weekold Simon, had severe pneumonia and received oxygen from an oxygen concentrator run by electricity. We were able to control the oxygen saturation in his blood via a monitor.

As the power was cut, our technician and I were alerted simultaneously. By the time of our arrival the oxygen saturation was at a critically low point. Luckily we were able to bridge the time of the power- and oxygen- failure utilizing a resuscitation bag. Marc was able to make the generator work pretty quickly to defuse the situation. Little Simon survived this delicate situation just fine. Slowly his condition is stabilizing, but he continuously needs oxygen treatment. Fortunately the power concentrator has been running throughout the past days and providing the whole hospital with electricity.

Since yesterday night Simon receives breast milk via a gastric tube. We are monitoring his heart rate, the oxygen saturation in his blood and his temperature. He obtains liquids and medication through an intravenous drip. I check up on him several time a day. He currently lies on the primary care bed for newborns. I call it my little intensive bed.

Today we were able to finish with the oxygen treatment and put him to bed with his twin brother Joel for whom we are also caring in Lwala. He is not as seriously ill, however both brothers have to be treated with antibiotics further on.

I take a lot of care of the premature and newborns and I am constantly surprised what can be accomplished with such few resources at our disposal. Accustomed to the high standards of a German intensive care unit, I would have never thought how tenaciously and persistently the small ones fight their way into life. At the so- called Känguruhen there is a mother’s warming skin instead of an incubator, which improves the breathing of the prematurely born. For the infusion we count the drops ourselves instead of using an electrical infusion pump. There are neither soothers nor suction cups in different sizes. The mothers breastfeed their children if possible. If not, breastmilk is dropped into their mouth with a syringe while the baby sucks on his mother’s finger.

Moments I find especially heartwarming are visits from mothers and their children who want to thank my predecessors once again. They are sad when they can no longer find Susanne, Nadine, Kathrin and the other Cap- Anamur- volunteers. But I try to comfort them by promising to send photos to Germany”

Regarding Judith Große-Sudhues:

The 41-year-old pediatrician from Dortmund has been working for Cap Anamur in Uganda since July 2015.