Tiny warriors and real-life heroes: How UAE nurses help preterm babies fight for survival

Beyond medical care, these heroes are dedicated to ensuring the overall well-being of the infants by creating a nurturing environment

by

SM Ayaz Zakir

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Supplied photos
Supplied photos

Published: Thu 21 Dec 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 21 Dec 2023, 2:31 PM

In hospitals across the country, something magical happens every day in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). A unique and heartwarming connection grows between real-life heroes — the nurses, and the tiniest warriors — newborn babies, who start their lives facing medical challenges.

The little fighters spend quite a long time – between two and eight months – in the hospital, due to their health struggles. The nurses, cleaners, and doctors working tirelessly behind the scenes, meanwhile, find themselves forming special bonds with the newborns.

One among many nurses who have bonded with hundreds of babies for the last 15 years is Tessy, unit in charge, NICU at Thumbay University Hospital, Ajman. She said that emotionally connecting with these tiny patients is an integral part of her job. “I engage in activities like talking to these little ones ensuring their comfort to build that emotional connection. We end up forming a deep bond with them. Even after their discharge, we request updates from the parents on the growth milestones of the baby - even after months and years,” she told Khaleej Times.

Tessy
Tessy

The role of NICU nurses involves a combination of medical expertise, emotional support, and effective communication to provide the best possible care for premature or ill newborns and their families in the neonatal unit.

Beyond medical care, these heroes are dedicated to ensuring the overall well-being of the infants by creating a nurturing environment.

Unique interactions

“Each interaction with these tiny patients is unique, which profoundly influences the bonds we form,” said Kartika, nurse manager at Medcare Women and Children Hospital.

Kartika
Kartika

“The extended stay of preterm babies in the NICU often fills us with a sense of melancholy when they're ready to leave. They become an integral part of our NICU family, making farewells bittersweet,” added Kartika.

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For the nurses in NICU, the emotional connection between neonatologists, nurses, and parents is profound. These nurses have plenty of stories and heartfelt moments to share. Tessy remembers an Indian couple who gave birth to a baby girl weighing only 800 grams at 27 weeks of gestation. “After being admitted to the NICU, the mother’s only means of communication with her child was through an incubator, which was a difficult time filled with emotional breakdowns. The baby made a remarkable recovery after a month of intensive care, at which point the mother finally held her in her arms for the first time."

“We were all very emotional at the time, and the tears flowed when we realised that the baby was now healthy and going home with her parents,” added Tessy.

Poignant moments

For Kartika, one poignant moment she can remember was with a mother and her premature baby in the NICU. “It was a profoundly moving instance when, after a long and uncertain journey, the mother held her tiny baby for the first time. As tears of relief and joy streamed down her face, her whispered words of love and hope echoed through the unit, touching all of us deeply,” said Kartika.

Kartika mentioned another instance where a couple was struggling to have a baby. “Despite the challenges, they found hope and strength from supportive doctors and nurses. Their journey showed that hope and gratitude can be powerful, even in difficult times which taught us that miracles can happen anytime,” said Kartika.

However, the role of doctors is a bit different compared to nurses. One of the greatest hurdles is reassuring parents of critically ill babies “by explaining their medical conditions and preparing them for potential challenges,” said Dr Issam Abdelbari, lead neonatal consultant at Medcare Women and Children Hospital.

Dr Issam Abdelbari
Dr Issam Abdelbari

The primary concern for the doctors is infection, a significant health risk which is effectively managed by strict adherence to infection control standards within the NICU.

Dr Abdelbari said that many of these parents are first-timers, often overwhelmed by anxiety and lacking in medical knowledge. “Our approach involves continuous education for parents and family members," he added.

He also mentioned that creating the ideal environment for babies is a top priority, especially considering the potential discomfort they might experience due to necessary medical procedures. “Prioritising the baby's comfort, we begin with gentle touch and soothing gestures before any procedures, closely monitoring their reactions to address any signs of discomfort promptly. We're committed to minimising noise and limiting disruptions caused by frequent family visits, ensuring a calm atmosphere.”

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