The Inspiring Story of Husband and Wife Team Saving India's Premature Babies
November is Prematurity Awareness Month and the 17th marks this year's World Prematurity Awareness Day. Though amazing medical and technological advancement has significantly improved the chance of survival for the 15 million global pre-term babies, those born in low-income countries still face extreme difficulty in surviving the first few days of life. With almost 3.6 million premature births (23.6% of the global 15m), India is reported to have the highest annual premature birth rate. These babies are some of the most at-risk newborns in the world.
Though these statistics paint a grim picture, there is hope. Together, we and our Mother to Mother™ program partner D-Rev , wanted to share with you the inspiring story of husband and wife team of Hasya Newborn Care Center in Palanpur, India.
Dr. Vaibhav Patel and his wife Dr. Heena Patel, both pediatricians, are just in their 20s but are on a mission to change newborn healthcare in rural India. Their secret: using Brilliance Pro, D-Rev’s most groundbreaking phototherapy device to-date to treat newborn jaundice in resource limited settings. When Dr. Patel finished school, he immediately started working in a clinic in Ahmedabad, a city in Gujarat. “During my first year of practice in an OPD clinic, I saw that the crowded centre attended to 300 patients each day,” says Dr. Patel. “There was little time spent on each child and I noticed that antibiotics were quickly prescribed.”
He believes that counseling parents is the most important part of pediatric care, but with hundreds of patients in line, it was impossible to spend any time doing that. “Most pediatric issues are treatable with counseling and reassurance to the parents. This eliminates the need for strong medicines and will also prevent several diseases,” he explains. “Even most of the jaundice cases that come in could have been prevented if the pediatrician had spent more time teaching the mother proper breastfeeding techniques. ”
The disillusioned doctor and his wife decided to focus on bringing specialized newborn healthcare to areas where they are scarce. In February 2015 they opened Hasya Newborn Baby Care, in the small town of Palanpur. The specialty hospital is the first of its kind in its district. It has up-to-date technology, a rarity for rural India, where newborn care can often be limited to a visit to the temple to bless the baby. Their mission is revolutionary, and keeping it alive is just as demanding as it sounds. Being in a small town comes with the big disadvantage of not being able to hire trained staff, “No one with experience wants to live here. So we just have to train locals from scratch,” Dr. Patel says.
The hardworking couple refuses to compromise on quality of equipment and care. They take turns to make sure that at least one of them is at the clinic for all 24 hours. They also invested in the newest versions of all their machines. After a lot of research, Dr. Patel ordered five Brilliance Pro machines to combat the high jaundice rate. In the short span of five months, they have all been in use and have been able to help more than 150 infants. “Some of the patients had severe jaundice with bilirubin levels as high as 20 and 24. We used the Brilliance Pro and saw a drastic fall in just 24 hours,” he says. Other success stories include successfully treating a baby that weighed just 2.2 pounds.
The inspiring husband and wife team of Haseya Newborn Care Center are starting locally but they are surely contributing to saving India's 3.6 million pre-term babies one baby and one family at a time.