Helping Babies Breathe in Congo

Two days after Dr. Eddy received the training Helping Babies Breathe at Karawa he was able to put his newly acquired skills into practice.  A woman gave birth by caesarean and the baby was not breathing.  Dr. Eddy knew exactly what to do quickly to help the baby breathe and instead of mourning there was joy as the baby lived.

a nurse practicing her technique on a training mannequin

There are babies that die in the first 24 hours after birth.  The Helping Babies Breathe training teaches medical staff what to do in the critical first minute (the Golden Minute) and beyond to resuscitate babies that are not breathing.  In general 90% of babies are born without breathing problems.  This training has the potential to save 9 out of 10 of those that need help to breathe on their own.

trainees practicing their techniques

The training Dr. Eddy received was provided by a team of Paul Carlson Partnership (PCP) Medical Ambassadors.  The team of 4 doctors and 1 pastor was led by Dr. Eric Gunnoe, an intensive care pediatrician from Portland, ME.  Dr. Gunnoe, assisted by Dr. John Whittington, taught the first group of 6 doctors and nurses over 1-1/2 days.  The team brought 3 special training mannequins which simulate the newborn and breathing problems.  After the first group passed written and practical tests which demonstrated they knew what do to, they in turn taught the next group of 6 doctors and nurses while Eric and John observed.  Covenant missionary Marta Klein translated for Dr. Eric.  These 12 trained doctors and nurses will next train other nurses, doctors and traditional birth attendants from the various CEUM health zones.  The goal is to spread the training into all the health centers and hospitals of the CEUM.

Sheryl Noren helping a nurse with a technique

Others on the team were Dr. William Dunn from Rochester, MN, Dr. Obo Addy from Grand Rapids, MI and Rev. Herb Frost of Rochester Covenant in Rochester, MN.  These three were on the team to observe and learn.  The entire team interacted with the Congolese medical staff through rounds at the hospital, informal teaching and discussions about the issues facing medical care in Congo.

L to R: Dr Obo, Dr Eric, Dr John, Rev Herb, Dr. Bill and CEUM VP Vungbo

The PCP team not only brought encouragement through their presence and the training, they also brought the needed supplies to support this technique.  Thanks to the generosity of Christchurch, Portland, ME (Eric’s home church) the CEUM medical service has or will receive enough of the resuscitation kits to provide 5 kids for each of the CEUM’s 5 hospitals and 1 kit for each of the 94 health centers.  WOW.  Thanks Christchurch for helping to save lives in Congo!

Those who were trained commented:

  • “I learned new skills.  Thank you for thinking of us here and training us to save children.”
  • “I learned the best techniques to help during births.  I will change some of the techniques I was using before as they are not the best for new born babies.”
  • “We are looking to diminish the number of deaths of newborn babies. When a mother has carried her child during 9 months of pregnancy and then the baby dies at birth, there is much sadness for the family.  With God’s wisdom we want to help children and families here.”
  • “The training I received will help save many lives.  I am now trained with the correct materials to act quickly to help babies breathe in the first minute.  I will put what I have learned into work to train others in the health centers so they can help women in each village.  We want each health center equipped and trained.  This will change things as most births are at the health centers.”
  • “At the nursing school we are training students who will work in many places.  I can train future nurses.  This is a great training.  We will incorporate this into our school program.  I hope to start training the 4th year students in the next few weeks

Marta translating for Dr. Eric

What was our role in all of this?  Cindy was at Karawa for the week the team was there and helped with translation for lots of meetings between the team and Congolese staff.  She also helped monitor the written texts for the training. She came home very, very encouraged and grateful to God for the team.  Thanks Dr. Eric and all the team for coming.


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4 Responses to “Helping Babies Breathe in Congo”

  1. Wonderful, Cindy! It must feel so rewarding to be an intregal part of this!

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  2. Elaine Clauson says:

    Great to read about this!

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  3. Earlene says:

    This is a topic that is close to my heart…
    Thank you! Where are your contact details though?

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  4. Pete & Cindy Ekstrand says:

    We are missionaries with the Evangelical Covenant Church.

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