- January 31, 2014
My vision started to become faint, but I could see doctors pressing my chest and nurses pumping medicines through my veins. There are several neighbors of mine - blissfully unaware of my existence. They continue to either feed or sleep in the midst of constant bleeping and motor noises. Slightly away from this in the adjacent room, a young lady and a man holding hands appear to be in extreme distress repeatedly asking everybody coming near the door “How is my child? Is there any chance?”
I recognise these two young people so well as for nearly 60 days, every day they have been my regular visitors. Lady always had moisture in her eyes, had warmth in her touch and always was talking to me - either telling me a story or singing neither of which I could understand. Somehow I felt very comfortable with regularization of heartbeats and was less breathless when she was around and was touching me. I used to feel very confident with the smell of this lady near me. The man had always been calm, watching me closely with a suggestion of proudness in the eyes whenever I moved or held onto his fingers.
I remember the day when all these things started. For nearly seven months, I had been naked swimming comfortably in a warm pool of water. I always had the rope attached to my belly, which ensured that I never felt hungry. But, on that day there was unusually increased activity, felt like the water was very hot making me uncomfortable suddenly a force started to push me down. Soon, I felt the cool air touching my body, and I was in the arms of some strangers. My rope was cut, and I felt like somebody is strangulating me, and I was not able to breath or cry. Moments later I was in a huge room lying on the hard bed with a tube in my mouth pushing air constantly. I had several wires connected to me. This place was almost hundred times noisier than the pool. There were bright lights flashing on me, and there were big machines - multiple times my sizes - attached to me. I could hear doctors talking to the same young couple suggesting that, I would need to remain in the same for a long time, and there are chances that I may not be able to go home.
From that moment, my life had changed forever. I was never left to take a rest, constantly somebody was touching me many times with sharp objects that made me cry so hard but I was helpless. There were some objects placed inside my body that made me so uncomfortable, but I did not have the strength to remove them. Many times, I felt why was I brought here instead of the warm pool where all my needs were taken care and seemed like I was learning a lot and was growing. There were so many days I hoped I could go back there. But, there were moments that made me stronger wanting to fight against the problems. The regular trickle of milk reaching my stomach and the touch of the young lady gave me the strength. I noticed that there were several babies similar to me - some having more wires than me while some having the luxury of warm skin contact from their loved ones. There were days when I felt I would be moving out of the place soon with good health but, I started to notice that I was becoming weak, not being able to open the eyes with severe pains in the stomach, and was becoming more and more breathless. The more I was suffering, more procedures were done to me, and more things were pushed into me. Though I was loosing the hope of my ability to sustain the pain, I was yearning for the presence of the young couple, who constantly made me feel that I am important. In the recent weeks, I also was allowed to lie on the lady's skin, which made me so comfortable and reminded me of my warm pool days. Gradually I noticed that I was becoming heavier, had many wires removed from me, was breathing comfortably and even started taking the milk from the lady. I started to believe that I might be able to go out of the noisy room soon.
Suddenly this morning I felt like I am unable to breath, my feet were becoming cold, and I was becoming drowsy. I could hear the doctors telling the couple that some bugs have entered me and can take away my life. Again my existence became uncertain. Within hours, I was loosing consciousness, and I felt the sudden increased activity around and the painful procedures on my chest by the doctors. But, I decided by this time that I would not let it go. I have learned from the young couple that I need to fight. My struggle carried on few more weeks, but the situation improved and I am now constantly in the arms of the young woman and I even learned to smile. I am not sure about the fate of my neighbors in the room. I feel lucky though I remember the doctor telling the young man that nothing will be guaranteed until I become much older and do all the things that other children do.”
Any baby born before the completion of 37 weeks is called a preterm infant. Nearly 300,000 newborns die in our country every year due to prematurity and related problems. Babies are born as early as 24 weeks to 36 weeks due to various reasons including infections, poor nutrition, mother's high blood pressure and many unknown factors. Premature care needs a sophisticated environment with high technology facilities and dedicated, trained staff. Lack of these facilities is one of the major factors contributing the deaths or disabilities. The stay of the premature infant in the hospital could range from 2 weeks to 3-4 months depending on their maturity and associated medical problems. There is a huge uncertainty of life during their stay. Parents go through the roller coaster of emotions. Premature delivery can have significant social, emotional and financial implications on the family. Though there are many successful premature infants who are now successful teenagers, we should not ignore the ones who could not make it. Though government and organizations like WHO and National Neonatology Forum are trying to improve the care of these preterm infants, this is a huge social issue and deserves more attention.
On the occasion of World Premature day (17th November), I would like to appeal that we as medical professionals, administrators, media and parents should consolidate our efforts to improve the outcomes by focusing on the strategies to reduce the number of premature deliveries and improve the neonatal care. More research, adopting the best international practices and constant training of the personnel involved in the care can only achieve better outcomes. Parent's participation is one of the most important factors in the success of medical care. Hence, at all times parents must be involved in the decision-making.
Dedicated to all the premature infants and parents who successfully are fighting against all odds and those infants who could not survive to progress into the childhood.