Birthday gratitude

Birthday gratitude

Grateful parents give back to UHWI after 'miraculous' saving of baby's life

BY ANIKA RICHARDS
Associate editor — news/health
richardsai@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, July 05, 2020

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SIX years ago, Rodger Brown and his wife Shana Newman-Brown had to improvise so their newborn daughter could have access to a ventilator at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI).

Baby Malia was diagnosed with respiratory distress syndrome — a common breathing disorder that affects newborns — and needed to be placed on a ventilator after emergency surgery, but none was available.

“When she was born she had a high Apgar [score], which is a sign of a healthy baby; no real issues presented when her paediatrician saw her and she went to the nursery. I accompanied her to the nursery and the nurses cleaned her up and I was interacting [with her]. About two hours after she was born, another paediatrician in the nursery noticed some irregular breathing and contacted her physician to come and see her,” her father told the Jamaica Observer in an interview.

He said when her physician arrived she was immediately concerned, and arrangements were made to transfer the newborn from Andrews Memorial Hospital to the neonatal unit at UHWI.

“So we were transported very quickly from Andrews Memorial to UHWI NICU, which received her as an emergency case. Immediately, when they were checking her signs for what was happening, in terms of her rapid breathing, she was put on a CPAP [continuous positive airway pressure] machine; it was quite traumatic to see what was happening because she started to deteriorate so quickly,” Brown said.

He said the doctors realised that her left lung had collapsed so they had to do surgery.

“So they did surgery and she was still not out of the woods after the surgery, and immediately after they did that surgery she had to go back in because the right lung collapsed, so she had what you called a double pneumothorax.

“After the tests were conducted, she was diagnosed with respiratory distress syndome, so the prognosis had her in the NICU and having to be attended to by the doctors and nurses there to treat all of the complications... so she was there and ended up on a ventilator, and after proper treatment she eventually came out in 20 days,” the father recounted.

But before she ended up on the ventilator, they had to find one that was not occupied. The couple told the Observer that it was this experience that heightened their awareness of the needs of the NICU.

“... Neonatal ventilators are different from adult ventilators, and the NICU is in deficit, as most hospitals [are] in the country,” Brown explained. “So there were some ventilators which are mechanically driven, because of the demand they sometimes go down [or are] out of service because of some mechanical failure.”

He said the family met with the head of the NICU at the time, in an effort to find a ventilator for Malia; some ventilators were identified as being out of service.

“We had to basically take a look at what we could do to try to get resources to get it up and running. So we met with one of the guys in charge of maintenance at the time [and] we were able to source and improvise a makeshift part in order to get the ventilator for her working,” the father said. “So that is how she was able to get a ventilator, because there was none available.”

He added: “The ventilator is one part of it, but there are so many other aspects — the resuscitation pumps, the incubators, the different things that were also necessary to keep a fragile life sustained — that were brought to our attention.”

The parents said it was this overall experience that made them start the Malia Brown Foundation to raise awareness about the needs of the NICU as well as to provide support to the unit and its staff. The foundation is dedicated to helping seriously ill, disabled or disadvantaged children who are in need of assistance.

“We saw a lot of babies around us that died and we saw the limitations of the NICU at that time, so we decided, on Malia's first birthday [in 2015], that we would ask our family and friends to donate towards the NICU because we wanted, in lieu of gifts every year of her life, to celebrate the doctors and nurses,” Newman-Brown said. “They really went above and beyond the call of duty, with limited resources and clearly with God's intervention... there were others amongst us that we met there that lost their children.”

She said they decided to use the experience, which was a real trial for them, and turn it into something good in an effort to make a difference.

So last month, Malia celebrated her birthday by handing over an infusion pump and resuscitation mask to the NICU. Her mother said she is completely healed and doing well today, thanks to the health care professionals who helped save her life in 2014.

Newman-Brown told the Observer that her hope is that the Malia Brown Foundation will go from strength to strength in helping to raise awareness about the limitations of medical facilities in Jamaica. She said, too, that they would love to collaborate with other foundations to continue making a difference.

The mother of two highlighted some of the companies that have donated to the foundation over the years, including Adam & Eve Day Spa, Browne Entertainment Arts & Media (BEAM) Jamaica, Totally Delicious Bakery, and Totally Delicious Paradise, while making an appeal for others in corporate Jamaica to come on board.

The Brown's also listed the items needed by the NICU, which includes newborn diapers; newborn clothes; wipes; barrier cream; olive oil; breast milk storage bags; multivitamin (Tropivite); vital signs monitors (fixed and portable); infusion pumps; oxygen saturation monitors; transport incubators; incubators; phototherapy lamps; portable suction machines; digital scales; ventilators; radiant warmers; and IV drip stands.

The intention is to continue celebrating Malia's life with the NICU for years to come, so Newman-Brown said they would appreciate any and all support to help her continue to help save the lives of future newborns.

If interested in donating, drop-off boxes have been set up at Kiddie Care Pediatricians at 11 Latham Avenue, Kingston 6, Matilda's Corner Pharmacy inside Liguanea Post Mall, Kingston 6, and Taylor'd 4 Babies on Lady Musgrave Road in Kingston. People can purchase equipment and donate to the foundation at Jamaica Hospital Supplies at 66 1/2 Half-Way-Tree Road in Kingston. Donations can also be made to National Commercial Bank account #204167133 in the name of the Malia Brown Foundation.

The proud parents told the Observer that Malia is not only aware of her history and the purpose of the foundation named after her, but also the importance of giving back and showing appreciation for the caregivers at the NICU.

Brown described the work the health care professionals do as “miraculous”, adding that its is amazing what they are able to achieve with the limited resources.


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