A Baby Girl Fights for Life

A pregnant mother in distress and her premature infant survive against the odds at NPH Haiti’s Saint Damien Pediatric Hospital.
March 5, 2020 - Haiti

Baby Marlie naps in Saint Damien’s Kangaroo Care center.

Antoinette, a pregnant mother in medical distress, was admitted to Saint Damien Pediatric Hospital October 2019. At just six months pregnant, her membranes had ruptured and a premature delivery loomed. Antoinette had been transferred to Saint Damien from another hospital that was not equipped to care for a high-risk pregnancy like hers.

At Saint Damien, high-risk pregnancies are an area of specialty. Pregnant mothers in distress continued to stream into the hospital amid the dangerous political and social upheaval playing out in the streets of Port-au-Prince last fall.

Antoinette received the expert care she needed to stave off labor and delivery for a whole month. In November, she gave birth to a baby girl by cesarean section. Born at just 29 weeks gestation, baby Marlie was cyanotic, dyspneic, hypotonic, and weighed only 930 grams. She had to be resuscitated before being transferred to the neonatology department.

Mom Antoinette earns her living in the fashion industry, specifically doing beadwork for clothes and handicrafts. She earns the equivalent of a few dollars, just enough to survive. But in times of crisis—with mass demonstrations, power outages, and food shortages a regular occurrence—tourists don’t come to Haiti and Antoinette’s work dries up. She is obliged to seek loans to pay her medical bills.

She lives in Meyotte, a section of Petion-Ville replete with hotels and tourists in the high season. Her husband is a taxi driver. His income is meager. After paying the car’s monthly rental fee and buying fuel, not much remains. Their eight-year-old son waited impatiently for his mom to return home from her long hospital stay. And he was eager to meet his baby sister. The birth of a child can be a joyous occasion. This period for Marlie’s family was one of worry, prayers, and concern for the future—for the health of their family and the state of the country. At times reports of baby Marlie’s progress were good and at other times the setbacks were life-threatening. The team at Saint Damien made sure to keep them informed and clarify the options available to give them the best possible counsel and encouragement.

From the beginning, Marlie showed that she wanted to live. At birth, a chest x-ray detected a grayish lung parenchyma that indicated grade 2 hyaline membrane disease, a symptom of her premature birth. Her respiratory system would not stabilize despite CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy. On day 13, Marlie went into respiratory arrest and had to be resuscitated. Furthermore, her hematological tests signaled infection, which called for treatment for neonatal sepsis. On day 18, Marlie was still dyspneic (her breathing was labored) and her blood count showed severe anemia. A blood transfusion followed. And she got stronger. On day 23—not even a month old—Marlie was weaned off supplemental oxygen.

At one month old—and one month of hospitalization—Marlie developed nosocomial septicemia and her severe anemia persisted. She had recurring episodes of apnea, was placed on CPAP again, and had two more blood transfusions. An ultrasound revealed a grade 2 intracranial hemorrhage. On day 44, with her delicate skin an unhealthy pallor, she received her fourth transfusion, this time with enriched hemoglobin. Another ultrasound of the fontanel region of her skull confirmed a persistent intracranial hemorrhage. On day 51, after seeing some improvement, the pediatrician transferred Marlie to Kangaroo Care to help her gain weight and reach her target of 1500 grams before the next round of assessments.

By day 75, Marlie had exceeded her target and weighed 1510 grams. On her 75th day of life, she joined her family—mom, dad, and brother—nestled quietly in Antoinette’s arms.

Antoinette is grateful for the care both she and her daughter received in the Rita Merli Maternity Center and in the neonatology unit of Saint Damien. She wishes for the pediatricians to keep their “winning attitude” so that other patients can have the same great experience she did and receive the same level of expert care that would have been unaffordable in another hospital. She hopes that God will continue to bless the hospital and its staff.

Names have been changed to protect individuals’ privacy.

Damarie Egide Voight   
Communication Officer, Saint Damien Pediatric Hospital

You may be only one person in the world, but you may be all the world to one child.
—Fr. William Wasson




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