A letter from Barbara Nagy in Malawi
As we look forward to celebrating the birth of Christ, we are enormously grateful for a gift given by Presbyterian Women and other friends: a high care nursery and kangaroo baby care area for sick newborns at Nkhoma Hospital, renovated from a building that was falling down on our heads. Thanks be to God and to all who helped us, especially our ever faithful Presbyterian Women!
The need for this building became evident eight years ago, when we started a Quality Improvement project designed to save the lives of sick newborns. Relatively simple techniques and equipment quickly led to over 75% of these vulnerable little lives being saved, a result that sent our hospital’s project to an international meeting for quality improvement in Paris in 2005. More importantly, it filled the hearts of our community and our hospital staff with the hope that these tiny, fragile babies could live and grow up normally. It became a vital factor in women choosing to come to the hospital or health centers to deliver their babies instead of giving birth at home.
A problem resulted from these crucial successes—we had nowhere to keep these babies during their hospital care, and no extra nursing staff to care for them. Some of the newborns were getting IV fluids or oxygen, but far more small or premature babies were being treated with ‘kangaroo care,’ where the mothers keep their infants skin to skin on their chests, becoming human incubators, and carefully expressing breast milk into measured cups when their babies are too young, or too sick, to suck effectively.
Our maternity ward, already knee deep in pregnant women and those newly delivered, simply had no place to keep these babies. We also wished to keep them separate from the healthy newborns, and in a place that could be heated. Two Ohio beds had been donated, a special type of raised bed designed to care for newborns in hospital delivery rooms, and each of these often held three or four sick babies that needed close observation. It was difficult at times to even determine which baby was which, and the kangaroo mothers were leaving the hospital too soon due to the extreme overcrowding.
Our hospital faces tremendous financial difficulties on a daily basis, so it would have been easy for hospital management to turn away from the needs of these tiny high risk babies out of a sense of hopelessness. Instead, they looked at two deteriorating buildings in our hospital and envisioned a way that they could be remodeled into the needed nursery space plus living quarters for additional nursing staff. Presbyterian Women and other friends came alongside to help with financing the renovations, and the new facilities finally became a reality this month.
Because our hospital serves as a major teaching site for nursing and clinician students from Malawi and throughout the world, this gift also means that simple, sustainable best practices for the care of sick newborns will be able to take hold in a much wider area of Malawi and save the lives of thousands of newborns. We are not in a position to benefit from advanced technology such as ventilators or mechanical incubators, but we thank God that simple tools have proven so effective.
We are so grateful for all who pray for us, send us letters of encouragement and support the ministry of Nkhoma Hospital financially. Please consider being a part of that group if you have not previously supported this ministry.
May you experience anew a sense of God’s grace and incredible love for us in this Christmas season,
Barbara, Melia, Anna and Happiness for all of the Nkhoma community