I was walking home for lunch on Monday when a lady stopped me to enthusiastically greet me and introduce me to her smiling toddler Desi who was running around in the grass outside the maternity building. She looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn't place her until she began to remind me of her story. Desi was born at 27 weeks gestation weighing only 900grams (2lb). Babies that small and premature don't generally survive here in Burundi. But she delivered at Kibuye Hope Hospital at just the right time in May 2014 and Desi was the first infant we placed in our new homemade incubators (designed and built by Jason Fader with the help of a Burundian carpenter).
Desi at age 2 days
Desi at 2 weeks old - receiving IV antibiotics and aminophylline to prevent apnea of prematurity as you see above his incubator
Happy mother with 2 week old Desi
Anna nicknamed him "Baby Doll" as he was so tiny
Amazingly, against all odds, Desi thrived.
Desi at 6 weeks of age ready to go home from the hospital
I always wondered what happened to Desi. He was still pretty tiny at discharge (4lb) - did he succumb to an infection or to hypothermia? Did the mother have enough milk for him? Would he have long term complications from prematurity?
It was a gift this week to see him at age 19 months happy and healthy and on track developmentally.
And I was so encouraged that Mama Desi (women are named here by their firstborn) wanted to visit the NICU and encourage the mothers there with their own 1000g babies who think the day will never come when they will go home. She stayed a long time there answering their questions and encouraging them while Desi ran around exploring the place where he spent his first 2 months of life.
There aren't very many Desis running around in Burundi. Most babies born that early don't survive. In fact we unfortunately lost a baby this week born at 28 weeks gestation. But seeing Desi on Monday encouraged me and gave me hope for the future. As we tediously make feeding calculations and treatment decisions for the 11 premies currently in our NICU, celebrating each day's weight gain and each happy discharge, who knows what's possible? Thanks to all who helped develop our NICU here and who hope with us for more joyful stories like the gift of Desi.