What would you pay to save this baby's life? A thousand dollars sounds pretty steep in Kenya, more than the annual per capita GDP, but a drop in the bucket many places. She was born prematurely, and survived for a couple weeks in a local hospital. But as the days wore on she became sicker and sicker, and when her twin died, her distraught parents scooped her up and got in a taxi to Kijabe. She arrived on death's doorstep. I got the call in nursery as I was walking out the door that there was a baby in MCH clinic, did we have an incubator? No, I said, we'll have to send her on to Kenyatta. We were running at 150% or more of capacity and taking on another baby would compromise the survival of those we already had.
But as the visiting resident who was staffing the clinic worked on carrying out the plan we had made over the phone, she called back to ask some questions about the logistics of an ambulance. These parents had nothing with which to pay for one. I was at the end of a stressful day and scrambling to get dinner for guests. THANK GOD it was one of those times the Spirit just kept me unsettled. I had no peace about the decision to send this baby on to the national hospital. It sounded like she would die on the way. So I called the resident back with a plan to squeeze her in without an isolette, using a crib and a heater, and hope for the best. I can't explain the internal battle but I knew we were supposed to keep this baby.
That weekend she became much worse, and my colleagues took her to the ICU. I thought it was hopeless. She was on life support for six days, battling a nearly fatal and overwhelming infection. We fought back with the strongest antibiotics, and the kind of medicine and monitoring only available a few places in Africa. This little twin, a deep green color of jaundice, skinny and losing her grip on life, pale and with barely the strength to keep her heart going even when we took over the breathing, teetered on the brink for a week. But day by day her vital signs became more stable. My team was fighting to save this one, particularly as a twin when the other had died. They had more hope than I did.
Eventually she came back down to the nursery, and we gently helped her get to the point of feeding, and then of breathing without any oxygen. Today she's going home, having reached normal newborn size after almost a month of life.
She is cured.
Her parents' national insurance card payed about a third of the bill, and they were able to bring about $250 which is 3-4 months' salary for the average citizen. That left about $1000 still to be paid.
Thanks to several recent generous donations, our Kijabe Hospital Needy Children's Fund was able to step in and pay the bill. Which means that baby M can go home with her mother, who was a hair's breadth away from total bereavement. Which means that we can sustain low cost care and offer the same services to the next baby.
Though this is only a thousandth of the million-dollar-baby story . . the themes are similar, only our story has a happier ending: a fight against the odds, an initial reluctance, a growing wonder, the beauty of strangers growing in relationship, victories, redemption, dilemmas, and loss. Thanks to all who helped baby M survive, and pray that we can stay in the ring for the next one and the one after that. We get beat up pretty often. But today we're celebrating a victory.