The holiday season brought with it many Christmas and New Year babies, born in hospitals across the country and filling us with fuzzy feelings.
Behind the scenes were thousands of dedicated health workers who made this possible. As we start a new year and give thanks for good health, let us take time to celebrate these heroes who make holidays a whole lot warmer for many families.
First up is the midwives – the women and men of valour armed with a pair of gloves and a big heart.
I can’t forget the fine one who taught me my first delivery, during my first year of medical school, almost 17 years ago. She worked at the health centre in Naitiri, Bungoma County, helping mothers who streamed in day and night deliver, no matter the season.
Her children had grown up and left home, but she didn’t seem to have noticed as she had a new baby every other day in her little delivery room. She may not have discovered a cure for Zika virus but in my book, her consistency wins her many awards.
THE WELCOME COMMITTEE
Midwives are in the welcome committee tasked with receiving the little bundles of joy as they make their entrance into this world. They exist on a duty rota in the hospitals that has no regard for their personal lives. They are on call in the delivery rooms when other parents are singing Christmas carols with their children or counting down to the New Year.
Medical officer and clinical officer interns come a close second. Just when think they finally have a break from the grueling school curriculum, they land in the maternity rotation during the holiday season.
Many have left work on the morning of New Year and wondered why the streets are empty, having worked so hard, they forgot we had crossed over to a new year.
The “invisible people” in the maternity unit come a close third. Without them, these units would not run. Yet we obnoxiously ignore them and completely fail to recognise their massive contribution to the sanity of the units. How many people truly remember the name of the cleaning lady who shows up with a mop in the delivery suite to clean up the floor after a particularly bloody delivery? Or to mop the bedside when the labouring mum throws up unexpectedly after a particularly protracted contraction?
How many of us know the plumber, yet one blockage in the sluice room where all soiled hospital linen and instruments pass through for decontamination can lead to a total shut down of the entire unit.
What of those who spend sleepless nights in the central sterilisation units folding up gauze pieces and talking to machines humming at searing temperatures next to them?
These parents cannot even say hello to their own babies at home before taking a shower for fear of spreading hospital-acquired infections to their little ones.
GIVING UP HOLIDAYS
Holidays are for family, but they give it all up to spend the nights being invisible so that our babies can be safe from infection when they come into this world.
Obstetricians are possibly a hard nut to crack. One goes through medical school for six years, gets exposed to the world of practice for two more years and still goes ahead to consciously commit themselves to the crazy sentence of obstetrics.
Babies will never send notice of when they intend to be born. To my 60-year old colleagues who get out of bed at three in the morning to save a baby’s life or to ensure that the newborn is not orphaned at birth, I salute you!
Happy New Year to all the maternal and child healthcare teams wherever you are in the world!