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Fabella Maternity Hospital and Kangaroo or Crib

In September Springboard founder, Annette Helbig, Give a Life representative Melanie Ilisan, Kerrie O’Callaghan, Nadine Ostermann and Gina Tuazon, volunteers of Springboard visited the Fabella Maternity Hospital in Manila. Springboard financed the repair of 5 incubators and the purchase of 12 stainless steel cribs.

This hospital has set milestones in promoting breastfeeding and rooming-in for mothers and babies. Two doctors were sent to South America to learn about the Kangaroo method that is an alternative to keeping these little ones in incubators. The Fabella Maternity Hospital is the first hospital in the Philippines to promote this method that has achieved amazing results worldwide. As we walked through the rooms and corridors we are touched by the crude furnishing, the lack of equipment and the disrepair of the facilities. Mums are holding their babies close. We see the worry in their faces as they face problems and the delight in their newborns when the babies are doing well. The doctors and staff are genuinely concerned and try to improvise and extent help wherever they can. They work under incredibly difficult conditions. The electric wiring is in dire need of repair and the doctors fear the onset of a fire.

Our desire to help is great. We are painfully aware about the need to improve the circumstances under which these women deliver their babies. If just enough funding were available this hospital would be wonderful with its high ceilings and large rooms. But it lies in disrepair and live-saving equipment and much needed medicines are lacking.

Yet life has to go on at Fabella. Kerrie O’Callaghan has written the following story for us. Thank you Kerrie for this touching story that makes it easy for us to relate to the patients and the doctors at Fabella Maternity Hospital.

Kangaroo or Crib
by Kerrie O’Callaghan

Ma. Dina has begun labour. Her husband Raol stands with the sea of fathers in the corridors of the Fabella Maternity Hospital. He waits patiently for news of his wife.

In a room full of labouring women, with no privacy, the faces change as mothers give birth and leave. The ward is full – one or two to a delivery table. Dina’s bed partner delivers a tiny premature baby girl. She needs assistance with breathing and is taken to the Intensive Care Unit. Placed in a small crib with another little girl she receives oxygen from a hand operated pump which she shares. A nurse diligently sits by the tiny girls and pumps. The sound mixes with gurgling of suction, beeping of monitoring machines, weak cries and the good natured chatter of the nurses.

Springboard founder, Annette Helbig, Give a Life representative Melanie Ilisan and some foreign women walk across the floor of the Neo-Natal unit. They notice the colours of worn layers of linoleum, the high ceilings and the dirty walls. These are the remnants of what was once a grand old building. They notice mosquitoes and dozens of premature and ill babies in humid cribs who struggle to live. The doctor gives the foreign women her attention. She hopes that more donations of better equipment from Springboard and Give a Life might improve conditions for the babies. She laments the sharing of suction equipment and the transferring of infection. She tells them that more humid cribs, billiruben lights and respirators are needed. She knows that the Intensive Care Unit needs refurbishing but struggles on a daily bases with so very many problems during her 30 hour shifts. How does she make 1 respirator hand pump work for 2? How does she keep mosquitoes from biting the babies? Can she use cellophane to keep the babies warm in a kind of make-shift humid crib? When there is not enough to go around how does she choose?

The foreign women wade through the sea of fathers waiting in the corridor and enter the Kangaroo Ward which is filled with single beds, pushed together and shared by 2 or 3 mothers with babies bound to their chests. Some bewildered, some smiling faces greet the strangers as they walk by. In the chaos of breastfeeding mothers, nappy changing, sleeping and crying babies, tolerant and sharing women, nature their babies to their chests. The foreigners are told that lack of equipment led to the promotion of the Kangaroo method which is a very effective way to foster development of the infants who might otherwise be in humid cribs.

The foreign women are taken to the cesarean ward and to the normal deliveries ward, where mothers and babies share beds in hot and crowded rooms. The foreign women have given birth themselves and remember the sweet smell of a new born, privacy and the security of well maintained hospitals and good equipment. They watch as mothers and staff, cope in difficult circumstances with quiet dignity and patience – sharing always sharing.

Dina and her baby arrive in the normal deliveries room and are placed in a bed with others. They begin the 12 hour wait for discharge. Raol stands patiently in the sea of fathers, and waits in the corridors. Their child is one of more than 100 delivered at Fabella, “The Baby Factory”, that day.