Pregnant with her fifth child, Esther was referred to Kudjip Hospital from a small aid post for possible twins. Her second baby, a girl, had died soon after birth. She had left her other three children, all boys, at home. Esther and her husband had already agreed this would be their last child and she would have a tubal ligation. She was in active labor when I arrived to do an ultrasound. Instead of two babies, there was only one large baby. However, the umbilical cord was drooped down below the head of the baby, a rare and dangerous condition called cord presentation. With this condition, there is a high risk that during labor the head will compress the umbilical cord, cutting off the blood supply to the baby.
The treatment for this condition is a C-section. Our nurses quickly moved Esther to the Operating Theater. After placing spinal anesthesia, five minutes later I delivered Esther’s fifth and last child, a healthy baby girl, and performed a tubal ligation.
It was a Sunday and I was rounding on the maternity ward with my son, MJ. I watched as Esther lovingly held her baby girl. Both Mom and baby were happy, healthy, and ready to go home.
This tender scene between a happy and healthy mother and child reminded me of the difference Kudjip makes in the lives of so many. In all honesty, Esther’s ultrasound and subsequent C-section was only a small part of our medical staff’s day. In Papua New Guinea, where both the Maternal Mortality Rate and Infant Mortality Rate is the worst in our region of the world, her care was anything but routine.1,2 In fact, the average childbearing woman has a 1 in 20 lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy related complications.3 Also, less than half of the pregnant women in this country deliver with a skilled health attendant (someone with training to deliver a baby).2
Since returning three weeks ago, I have witnessed many beautiful reminders of the amazing work that happens here at Kudjip. Esther is only one of many people that are alive and well today because of the dedicated staff here. It took our family 28 days crisscrossing the globe to get back to Kudjip, but it has been completely worth the journey.
Picture and story used with permission.