Medical school exams unfortunately kept me away from my nephew, Caleb’s first birthday party, but I love looking through the pictures of him sitting in his highchair trying to figure out his cupcake. Family and friends were all there to celebrate this exciting day. Unfortunately this celebration is not possible for many infants and their families.
When Priyal and I first arrived in Pune, India we went to visit our host family’s daughter who was in the hospital being treated for a urinary tract infection. We pulled up to the hospital and walked through the open-air hallways to the back of the building. We passed the men’s room and entered into the women’s room where our host mom and her daughter were sitting on the bed closest to the door. After catching up and checking in on the family we started to talk with some of the other four families in the room.
Across from us was a newborn wrapped in multiple colored blankets and placed in a metal crib. Beside his crib was his grandmother. With Priyal’s Hindi skills (secret fun fact: Priyal is fluent in 3 languages…amazing!) We talked with the grandmother for a little bit. The baby was born early because the mom had pre-eclampsia. She was still being treated in the ICU while the grandmother took care of the baby out in the regular unit.
The grandmother quickly picked up the small bundle and handed him over for me to hold. I knew that he couldn’t be older than 35 weeks. She told us that he was still only breast-feeding, and that they would take him to the ICU to have mom feed him.
While we were talking, Priyal and I couldn’t help but notice the patient two beds down who was continuously coughing. The patient was a middle-aged women, who did not look well. She was currently being treated for community acquired pneumonia, but was also being tested for tuberculosis. With nothing more than a sheet hung from the ceiling, this baby was at risk for being exposed to many different infections at such a vulnerable time in his life. This little newbie has many challenges ahead
My mind was racing after we met this little nugget. Infant and maternal mortality is a large problem both in Columbus and in India. It has been found that about 6 million children under the age of 5 died during 2015 worldwide! What?! Also, a little over 300,000 women died from pregnancy-related causes. Just in Franklin County 2-3 baby’s under the age of one die every week! These are terrible stats, but there is hope.
There is a great quote from St. Francis of Assisi that says, “Start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
Researchers have calculated that by expanding basic health services ($5/person) we can reduce the overall death rates by half. Family planning services were found to be the most plausible and available methods to achieving this. Also, CelebrateOne is a task force in Columbus aimed at helping educate families and decrease the infant mortality. Safe sleep is one of their main initiatives; Ensure that babies are sleeping alone, on their backs, and in an empty crib (free of bumpers, blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals). Spread the word to all the new moms you know!
One of the big messages that we should take from this is that all of our communities are hit in some way or another by infant and maternal mortality and even the smallest efforts can help towards decreasing these rates.