Successful trainings in neonatal resuscitation in Rwanda

by Waleed Fatth, Global Programs Manager
Have you ever wondered how it might feel to visit Rwanda and to make an important contribution to one of the country’s key capacity development priorities? Here is an account of the experience of our current Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) delegation in the country.

Surrounded by the breathtaking views of the green hillsides around the Rwandan capital, Kigali, the delegates had their first training session on Tuesday this week with 33 Rwandan nurses and midwives at Masaka Hospital. These local participants turned out to be a very diverse group from 9 different hospitals and health centers. Curiosity about the important topic even encouraged a few doctors to join in and learn about a technique that could potentially prevent up to 45% of all total neonatal deaths in Rwanda.

Our delegation leader is Patty Kelly, a retired nurse who, for the past decade, enjoyed working as a volunteer medical educator in different countries, primarily in East Africa and Asia. What triggered her passion and activism is that she felt helpless having to watch many babies die following normal or cesarean deliveries because of a lack of simple, inexpensive equipment and the skill to use it. Statistics show that over 1 million babies die annually of birth asphyxia – the inability to take the first breath, an absolute necessity within the first 60 seconds of life.

“When I heard of the Helping Babies Breathe course, I knew it was my answer. I signed up immediately, did my first training as soon as possible and never looked back. Now, this is all I do, in many countries. I am approaching my 30th class.” What makes the HBB curriculum different according to Patty is its “train the trainer” model. That means that master trainers like her share the knowledge and teaching skills with those professionals who want to learn and teach others. In practice, she and her team train interested participants and then return several times to observe and help them hold their own trainings until they are ready to be master trainers themselves.

“I have worked the magic – this miracle provided with simple equipment and skill – on many, many babies myself. I have had the intense pleasure of watching the baby start to squirm and cry. I love having my students run to me to say they saved a baby born in the night or on their last shift.”

Patty believes that once everyone knows, once everyone has the equipment and knowledge, a million babies will live and grow up to be productive adults. Sick, damaged babies are a burden on a family and a community in a developing country; healthy, productive adults, however, help their families, help work the farm and/or the business, and bring an income into the family.

The passion to inspire and empower others to make an impact is what links Patty to our work. As our program leader, she is ready to take many more HBB delegations to Rwanda and other countries, and she strongly encourages international professionals and advanced students to sign up and to share her mission to save more babies. In her words: “For these reasons, I can’t NOT continue. I teach to save lives, to feed souls. This, for me, is what life is meant to be”.

For further information about the program, please visit the program page.