Home Health MTN Ghana Foundation’s investment in NICU saves lives of babies

MTN Ghana Foundation’s investment in NICU saves lives of babies

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MTN Ghana Foundation
MTN Ghana Foundation

Tamale, June 19, Eight years ago, Little Tajudeen (his surname), a baby was received at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit( NICU) of Tamale Teaching Hospital (TTH). He was an extreme preterm baby of just 27weeks of gestation. Aside his low birth weight of 0.7 kilogramme (kg), he was also in severe respiratory distress.

His fingers and toes that were turning blue showed how much his immature lungs were struggling to provide oxygen for him. Everyone thought he would soon go home to his maker. His twin brother, whose prematurity could not support his survival, had already taken the lead so it would have been no surprise to see him follow suit. Thus his parents watched in fear and anguish, dreading the moment they would say goodbye to this child they had carried for nine months but that moment never came all thanks to MTN Ghana Foundation.

Like a guardian angel, the new NICU they built for the TTH in May, 2015 was right there to help Little Tajudeen survive against all odds. “If Little Tajudeen had been brought to our old NICU, there was no way he would have survived”, recounted Madam Victoria Awalenkak Agwiah, a Neonatal Nurse Specialist in-charge of preterm babies at Kangaroo Care Department of TTH. “In fact, he would have been long gone like a feather carried away by a heavy wind”, she added. This is just one of the many miracles the MTN Ghana Foundation has brought into the homes of parents in Northern Ghana and beyond.

Before the intervention

If a mother wanted to feed her baby, a chair had to be borrowed from the security post outside and returned immediately. And if feeding a baby was a problem, how much more Kangaroo Mother Care that required more chairs! That was the state of the old NICU that was opened in 2009. Not only was it understaffed with four general nurses and one medical doctor, it was highly under equipped. “One faulty incubator, one oxygen tank, one improvised phototherapy machine and a few thermometers were all we had,” Madam Agwiah said.

Radiant warmers and monitors were fairytales to them. Hence if a baby was deteriorating especially in terms of oxygen saturation, no one had an idea because that was the work of the monitor. As for the space of the cubicle, the least said about it, the better. Staff had nowhere to sit so standing during a shift became the order of the day. This coupled with the heat that came from the sun made working conditions very unbearable. In place of a radiant warmer, a part of the ceiling had to be taken off to allow direct rays from the sun to be a source of heat for the babies. After each shift, all the staff members were drenched in sweat as if they had been working in the farm. It was therefore, no surprise when the number of nurses reduced to just two.

The intervention

Just when all hope was almost lost, MTN Ghana Foundation showed up like a knight in shining amour. They constructed an entire building for just Neonatal Care. What started out as an act of love by MTN Ghana Foundation towards the TTH became the beacon of hope of good neonatal care not just in Northern Ghana but in parts of Oti, Bono and Ahafo Regions. The monitors, incubators, radiant warmers, phototherapy machines and pulse oximeters shot up the survival rate of preterm babies drastically.

It was only a matter of time before TTH became the main referral point for preterm babies in the regions mentioned above. One cannot help but wonder what would have become of these 2000 preterm babies seen annually by the TTH NICU had MTN Ghana Foundation not stepped in. But that is not all about this beautiful intervention. The icing on the cake is the number of specialist doctors and nurses this new NICU has inspired.

The additional features including the kangaroo mother care room, as well as the well-furnished conference room, have created a massively conducive environment for staff and many have even gone as far as specialising in pediatric medicine and nursing. Now, not only do they have the equipment, they also have the right staff for the job. The second phase of the project, which is on the first floor of the Maternity Block, just crowns it all with much beauty. Now, there is enough equipment to accommodate the growing population of preterm neonates.

The way forward

This is not the cliché saying of Oliver Twist asking for more. This is a sincere appeal from the staff of the NICU for help to the mothers of these preterm babies. Pregnancy is a joy for everyone until you deliver and have your baby admitted in the NICU. Where to sleep becomes the next headache.

If your heart does not melt at the sight of these poor mothers sleeping on boxes they have turned into beds on the bare floor, then it is safe to say you do not have a heart. When the rain falls, when the sun scorches, when the wind blows and when the nights are cold, who gives them shelter? Mind you, most of them are not based in Tamale. If the mother is not in perfect health, how can she nurture the baby to perfect health too. That is why this appeal for a hostel for the mothers is a very strong one.

MTN Ghana Foundation has changed the narrative of neonatal care in Northern Ghana. The joy will be complete if they could turn an eye to the mothers of these babies.

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