by Anesta Henry
One-year-old Karishma McCollin almost did not make it into this world. But she did, thanks to the excellent care she received at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in the first six months of her life. Karishma’s mother, 32-year-old Shakira Bailey, finds it impossible to think that her baby would have been alive, if not for the specialized staff and advanced technological equipment at the NICU.
As the NICU observed World Prematurity Day on Wednesday, Bailey sat with Barbados TODAY to share about her experience with the NICU. Bailey recalled that when she was 24 weeks pregnant, due to complications with her pregnancy, she was informed by doctors that her unborn may have no chance of surviving.
Bailey said she was asked whether she wanted to have an abortion to ease the intense pain she was experiencing. She recalled: “I said ‘no, let her come on her own’.
“She was taken to the NICU. On the morning I came and saw her. I didn’t spend a minute, I was like, the baby can’t survive. She had looked transparent; she didn’t look like a baby that would live. But not having any knowledge about prematurity, I said ‘no, she can’t survive’.”
The mother said that while Karishma’s father was optimistic that their child would survive, she was thinking differently. She said Karishma’s first two months at the NICU was an extremely difficult period for her. But eventually, Karishma started to develop in the way that the medical team that cared for her wanted her to.
“And she is doing well. She now started to stand and let go and she is meeting her milestones as is correct for her age,” she said. And while admitting that she is unable to find the right words to describe how she feels about what the NICU has done for Karishma, Bailey stated that without the Unit, “so many people would lose their babies”.
“Coming here to visit you see people losing their babies and you go home and cry because you don’t know if you will be next. One day I started to feel like I would have hit the mental.
“So, I went home and got down on my knees and said ‘no, Jesus take the wheel, God is in control’. And then I just started to come and visit the baby and I got to learn the machines as well.
“From January 1, I come and I see the machine reading yellow, yellow, yellow and I was like yes, a good sign. One day I was out there [in the NICU waiting area] and a young lady was having panic attacks so I asked her if she was okay.
And people would even tell the nurses that Shakira talked to me. And my boyfriend said, ‘I don’t understand you talking to people and when you come home you crying all the time, take the advice for yourself,” she said.
The mother of one added: “The staff and the nurses were good. I didn’t even have any say about my baby at one point.
She became theirs. They were really good and they are a group of people that I will never forget.
I am glad there is the NICU, because without the Unit, so many people would lose their babies when they are born at an age that they can’t breathe on their own and stuff like that. So, it is a really good unit and the doctors and nurses are very good”.
Nursing officer Bernadette Cadogan, who has been attached to the NICU for the past three years, shared with Barbados TODAY that working with premature babies is a hands-on experience that she enjoys.
Cadogan said though at times she hears the monitors on the NICU in her head because she is always thinking about what and how the babies are doing, there is no better feeling than seeing a baby that was once dependent on an incubator, able to go home in the comfort of their parent’s arms.
Cadogan said: “Sometimes it can be very painful, and sometimes you just have to move away for a little bit, shed a little care in the bathroom and come back again because you have to give the care. But when you see that you may lose this baby, it causes you to feel very uncomfortable.
“But we fight with we have got to ensure that everything is in place for them to ensure that they have a chance to live. It can be painful sometimes, and it can be quite a lot of work in trying to make sure that all the systems are in place to ensure the safety of these babies.
Around the clock care is what we gave at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit so that these babies can have what is required to live”.
The nursing officer said the NICU is a necessity based on the fact that premature babies need care and assistance from a specialised health team.
But, nurse Cadogan who is quite aware that the operation costs of such a facility is high, is appealing to corporate Barbados and donors to extend a helping hand to ensure the NICU is able to carry out its mandate of giving babies a chance to survive.
Cadogan added: “Right now, we need incubators, we need ventilators, we need monitors, we need pumps. Normally, we can accommodate 25 to 26 babies in the unit here, and we do not have all the required machinery to attend to all of them.
So, we really need corporate Barbados to get involved as much as they possibly can. I think it is 50 something thousand for a ventilator and the incubator is maybe 20 something thousand and we really do need them”.