Student saves mother and child

Young rural mother, Grace Tambor would have encountered complications and even die if it was not for a final year rural health (Health Extension officer - HEO) student from Divine Word University (DWU) who assisted her to deliver her first born child on the high seas between Rai Coast and Madang town.

The rural health student Margaret Kalisi said the young mother was already in labour when she was rushed to the local clinic where she and her colleagues were working there as part of their 10-week rural health centre practical placement.

She said Ms Tambor, from Biliau in the Rai Coast district was due to deliver her first child on Wednesday 06th August at the local clinic however the baby was in breech footling position posing a risk for both the mother and child.

Ms Kalisi said since the health officer in charge of the clinic was in Madang for official duty she was prompted to act in the emergency.

“There were no supervisors at the clinic so I decided we should further seek help (at the Modilon General Hospital),” Ms Kalisi said.

Ms Kalisi said due to the emergency she made a decision to escort the very pregnant Grace from Biliau by dinghy to Modilon General Hospital in Madang town – a three hour trip on the high seas.

Regardless of the notoriety of the waters of Astrolabe Bay where many maritime mishaps involving small crafts have occurred in recent times, the Southern Highlands student accompanied her patient on the three-hour boat trip to Madang.

Ms Kalisi said after an hour into the trip the ordeal turned into a precarious obstetric emergency out at sea.

“The mother couldn’t hold it any longer after the boat’s jolts and bumps. She delivered right there, out at sea at around 5pm,” said Ms Kalisi.

“If I was not there the mother would have faced serious problems,” Ms. Kalisi said, sympathising with the young mother.

“I didn’t have a senior health officer with me to supervise me.”

Nonetheless time was against Ms Kalisi and her pregnant young mother in labour pain and she had to put into practice what she had been taught with confidence.

“It was a challenge as a trainee HEO from the highlands not used to sea to assist a mother to deliver her first baby out on the high and open sea, an experience which I will never forget” said Ms Kalisi.

Ms Tambor was a happy mother after receiving proper medical attention at the Modilon General Hospital.

She said her family members are very grateful to Ms Kalisi who was there at that critical moment.

The rural health student and her patient and the newborn baby girl have since returned to Biliau village.

Ms Kalisi is among 111 third and fourth year rural health students on practical in rural health centres in Madang, Morobe and Eastern Highlands provinces.

The Rural health program, at DWU trains health extension officers (HEOs), to work in rural health facilities.

Head of the department, Dr Betty Etami Koka who was proud of the efforts of her student said: “HEOs are the gatekeepers of the health of the rural majority in PNG.

“It is of great importance for DWU to train and graduate competent HEOs who are the doctors where there are no doctors, managers and public health officers of district and rural health services.”

Dr Koka added that such practical experience by a trainee out in the high open sea is a test of how the training conducted at the University on clinical competency.