Earlier this week we experience something we did not expect we would during these 2 years; we have heard stories of similar events with the outcomes not ending well.
Ashley’s Story of the Miracle:
I was sitting in the break-room with my co-workers eating lunch when one of the health center workers came in and started talking to my director. The only words I could translate were: mother, baby, emergency and call police. My mind started to wonder, what has happened? Has a mother died giving birth, the baby or worse yet both the mother and the baby. I sat and listened to everyone as they started discussing and I could tell by the looks on their faces this was something more serious. And it was indeed, a baby was in a latrine in a nearby home.
The police were called and as we waited I wondered what can I do, can I do anything? I hadn’t been where everyone was gathered because of fear of the inevitable outcome. But, me being me, I told myself you need to go and see what you can do to help. When I arrived there was already a large group gathered at the site. The baby, who we later found out was born just hours before during the night, had been placed down the latrine of a family living behind the health center property. The only way he had been discovered was by a young boy who went home for lunch and heard cries while he went to the restroom. By this time the cries had stopped and everyone had a gut feeling that the chances of survival at this point were slim.
Once the police came, the decision on how to retrieve the baby started, do we rip up the foundation and possible risk the concrete falling down and crushing the infant or do we dig. Time was not on our side and digging would take a lot of man power and time. The decision was ultimately to dig, and the men started beside the back of the latrine structure. The goal was to get down under the foundation where a layer of bricks support to structure. As the men started to dig, the latrine started to shake and I only could hope the structure wouldn't collapse because at this point we still didn't know the status of the baby.
After a few minutes of digging I heard a woman yell, “I can hear a cry”. Could this be true could the baby be alive? They called for me to come over and I leaned in and I could hear it, a faint cry coming from down the hole. I called for a flashlight and peered down, and that's when I saw him, he was floating on top of what appeared to be a cavarra on his back with his little legs and arms moving slowly. He was alive and we needed to act fast. This is when “let’s get him out and soon” mode kicked in. Since there was not much I could do on the digging side, I called for the medical staff. Emergency preparedness is not a concept that most Ugandans have, in many cases when an accident occurs a person will lose their life due to the lack of knowledge on how to deal with such situations. I then hurried to coordinate staff to be ready to receive the baby and made sure a team was waiting nearby to provide any first aid. I then called Matt, you remember the incubator he assembled not long ago, so he could prepare the staff and incubator to receive the baby. At this point my heart was racing, the baby was alive and we were so close to getting him out. As the men continued digging I went in search of a blanket, bucket and water. This baby had been stuck in basically the sewer for 4 hours already that we knew of; who knows how long it had actually been. After gathering all the items and staff I went back over to the digging site, they were almost to the brick line and it wouldn't be long now.
I ran over to peer down the hole to check the baby’s status, still moving no cries; still it was a good sign, we need to hurry. The next thought was how are we going to get him? They had first said they would use a ladder, but after seeing how far down he really was it was out of the question. “A rope”, I told one of the staff members, “we need rope”. Just as the men reached the brick layer a man appeared with rope but now who was going to go down and rescue him? Out of the crowd a man appeared and started to get ready, they spent some time fixing the rope and a bucket but within a few minutes he was ready to go down. Slowly, they lowered him down into hole. My biggest fear, the structure collapsing and this selfless man loosing his life risking it to save another. After a few minutes we heard screams from the hole to lower the bucket, and then we all waited gathered around as the bucket appeared. The rest is all a blur. We received the baby and immediately started to tend to him. His breathing was good and besides a few little scraped and skin discoloration from being cold and in fluids for the past hours he seemed to be in stable condition. We rushed him to the health center where he received further care and was given antibiotics and placed into the incubator. The baby was alive, he was the first miracle I had seen and he was given a second chance at life when no one believed it possible.
Now due to the fact that this case is still open and under investigation I cannot go into any further details outside of what I have told. The most important thing, he is alive and doing well and the doctor believes he will live a normal healthy life. Everyone refers to him as my baby, they even asked me to name him. Baby Emmanuel is the name I gave him, Daniel Emmanuel; they even have a name in Runyoro that fits the meaning, miracle. So that’s my story and it’s an event I do not think I will ever forget. It’s not that often in life you get to see a true miracle and I am grateful I was able to be a part of his.