Isatu is 30 weeks pregnant and enrolled in Mercy Hospital's prenatal program. During a routine check she was found to be extremely anemic, a problem for anyone but especially dangerous for pregnant women and their unborn babies. Isatu was treated for the anemia and is now feeling much better.
“I appreciate the maternity unit for their help with my problem. I want to thank God for their efforts in saving my life," Isatu says. She successfully delivered her first child at Mercy and trusts the staff to take good care of her and her baby.
Mohamed Khadar and Ismael Vandy, members of Mercy Hospital's outreach team, were on a community mapping exercise to understand the needs in some of the villages reached by Mercy when they intervened to save the life of a woman who had just given birth to a stillborn baby.
The woman had given birth in her village and was walking the four miles to Kassama to seek medical treatment at the Maternal Child Health Post (MCHP). As she was walking, the woman began hemorrhaging and sought shelter in a hut by the side of the road. When Mohamed and Ismael encountered her, she was lying in a pool of blood and quickly losing consciousness. Mohamed immediately began treatment to stop the uterine bleeding and sent for help, which certainly saved the woman's life.
This story is far from typical for women giving birth in villages without MCHPs. The Sierra Leone government mandates that each village should be within four miles of a MCHP where women can seek treatment for themselves and their babies; but four miles is nearly an impossible distance to walk for a woman who has just given birth, let alone a woman who has had a complicated birth.
Thanks to Mohamed and Ismael's intervention, this woman survived. Clearly, there is a desperate need for more MCHPs in the villages served by Mercy's outreach teams.
Staff member donates blood to safe a life
Alice, age 6, was suffering from severe anemia caused by malaria and as a result needed a blood transfusion. Unfortunately, no relative was a match and the family could not afford to pay for a donor. Typically in Sierra Leone blood is donated by the family.
Mercy’s Outreach Coordinator, Mohamed Khadar, immediately offered to step in and donate blood to save Alice's life. “Really, I am very happy to donate," Mohamed says. "It is all about saving a life. Some people are afraid to donate blood but I know it is so important. It makes me glad to see her well again.” Alice is much improved and reunited with her family.
Mercy Outreach Coordinator, Mohamed Khadar donated blood to save the life of a young malaria patient.
Toddler treated for malnutrition and complications
Eustacia, nearly 18 months old, could easily pass for less than a year old. She came into Mercy suffering from severe vomiting and diarrhea, and was so weak she couldn't walk.
Mercy diagnosed Eustacia with chronic malnutrition and enrolled her in the nutrition program. Hopefully she will soon achieve normal weight, thanks to Mercy's intervention. Malnutrition is common among poor babies and toddlers in Sierra Leone, and is a contributing factor in the high under-five mortality rate. One of Mercy's prime missions is to address chronic malnutrition and save babies' lives.
Eustacia would have died from malnutrition without Mercy's intervention.
Early intervention rescues toddler from deadly malaria and typhoid
Mohamed, aged 20 months, was brought into Mercy by his 18 year old mother, Mariatu. Mohamed was so weak he could not lift his head. The nurses described him as “completely helpless.” He was suffering from malaria and typhoid, debilitating diseases for an adult, but deadly for a young baby. The Mercy staff administered a blood transfusion to treat Mohamed's anemia, and medications to combat the typhoid, fever and constipation, and the listless baby quickly began to regain his strength.
All of these diseases, while serious, are curable when medical care is sought early. His mother brought him to Mercy because she had often encountered the Mercy staff when they came to her village on outreach and trusted them. Mariatu praised the Mercy staff for their compassionate care of her baby. “I just thank God. Yesterday I was seriously crying. I actually thought he was going to die. He is my only child. I am so happy he is well now!"
Mohamed's mother is so grateful that Mercy saved her son's life. "I actually thought he was going to die!"
Giving birth at the hospital saved this mother's baby
Princess had already given birth to two children in a peripheral health unit (PHU), small clinics in rural villages staffed by midwives and nurses. Sometimes PHUs have a Community Health Officer (CHO), but never a doctor.
Although Princess' other pregnancies were normal, her sister-in-law encouraged her to give birth to her third child at Mercy Hospital, a decision that would ultimately save the baby’s life. Princess’ baby was born underweight and not breathing, probably because her mother had an undiagnosed sexually transmitted infection, which can cause birth complications, low birth weight, or even stillbirth. The mother had attended Mercy’s antenatal care program, but out of embarrassment had not told the maternity staff about the STI symptoms.
Mercy’s maternity staff immediately went into action, spending almost 30 minutes resuscitating the baby, who finally began to breathe, although she was still not crying. Due to the STI, the baby had inhaled a large amount of mucus in the womb. It was a tense couple of hours as the treatment took effect. At last, the baby slowly gained coloring and tentatively start to cry.
The staff breathed a collective sigh of relief when it became clear that the baby would live. Princess was extremely relieved. “I am really happy and appreciate for what Mercy did for me and my baby. I know if I had gone to the PHU the baby would not have survived. I am so grateful for what Mercy did for us.”
The nurses also confirmed that the PHU would not have been able to manage the case, and the baby surely would have died.
Princess's baby most likely survived because she gave birth at Mercy Hospital, instead of in the village.
Dr. Amara conducted maternal mortality training for the nurses, maternity department, and CHOs of Mercy Hospital last Wednesday. It was recently announced that Bo district has the highest maternal mortality rate in Sierra Leone. The district medical officer has called an emergency meeting this week to discuss this silent epidemic. Notably, Mercy Hospital has had no maternal deaths in 2018.
"This was more of a review for the staff on the basics that they already know," Dr. Amara explained. "Maternal mortality is very serious and we want to make sure that they are able to understand all of these principles offhand. We are going to give them an exam this Wednesday to see how much they have understood. From there, we will know what specific areas of training we need to review to make sure they are able to be most effective at their work."