Reference : V-P-SS-E-00825
Date : 05/05/2016
Country/Region : SOUTH SUDAN
Caption : Maiwut, Pagak. The ICRC sponsors the transportation of a mother and her deceased baby where the family is based. A relative holds the body of Nyamuoch (center), the baby's mother, who suffered from respiratory distress.
Photographer : GONZALEZ FARRAN, Albert
Confidentiality level : public
Publication restrictions : publication without restrictions
Copyright : ICRC
Description : The baby, admitted with pneumonia on May 2 at the intensive care unit of the hospital supported by the ICRC in Maiwut, passed away on May 5 when the hospital generator failed and the respiratory machine stopped working.
ICRC website article, 22.07.2016 : “Life and Loss in South Sudan […] Jessica cradled the small, underweight girl while humming and swaying gently. Nyamuoch, the 20-year-old South Sudanese mother, lay nearby on a thin green hospital mattress. “I’m so happy to see her sleep,” said Jessica, a pediatric nurse from Australia who has known the mother and baby for months. “She’s been through so much.” The air in this interior hospital room was heavy. A wounded air conditioner puffed limply, but move too much and puddles of sweat quickly formed. Still, the mood was relatively upbeat. Only three hours earlier medical personnel and curious onlookers had gathered as 5-month-old Nyanene struggled to stay alive. Her breathing radiated pain: loud, labored, gruff, desperate. The oversize oxygen mask still covered her tiny face now, but her breaths were quieter. Jessica had skipped lunch and now took a moment to peel an orange. She offered a piece to the young mother, who shook her head. Then, suddenly, the generator died. The light in the room dropped from green florescent to grey shadow. That wasn’t a problem. The problem was that Nyanene’s oxygen machine also shut down. Medically speaking, the baby was oxygen-dependent, and now there wasn’t any. Jessica sprang up, telling a South Sudanese medical officer named Gbang to take Nyanene’s heart rate. “If it’s under 60 we start CPR,” Jessica said. Gbang put the stethoscope over Nyanene’s heart. It was under 60.
Jessica holds an air bag in her hands and pumps breaths into the child’s body. Gbang presses his two thumbs deep into the baby’s chest, pumping its heart. “We’re going 15 minutes before we call it, okay?” Jessica says, then adds quietly to Gbang in the calmest, most peaceful voice one could possibly muster at a moment like this: “That’s really good. You’re doing a really good job.” Can we get the generator back on? A call is made but the dark remains. Can you check the heart rate? What’s the heart rate? Can you close the door please? Jessica relieves Gbang and starts pressing her thumbs into Nyanene’s chest. We’re going for 15 minutes, Jessica repeats. This baby, the one Jessica knows as hungry for life, isn’t responding. The mother, Nyamuoch, also sits on the bed, within arm’s length of her child, but she sits removed in a far-away trance. Nine minutes after cutting out the fluorescent lights flicker on, but the oxygen machine is useless now. Mucus pours out of Nyanene’s mouth and Jessica wipes it away. The clock ticks over to 2:20 p.m. Fifteen minutes have passed. Birgitte Gundersen, a veteran of emergency room trauma nearly 25 years Jessica’s senior, says quietly, “You can stop.” Jessica collects herself for a beat, then turns to her left and touches the mother’s leg. Nyamuoch, a cloth already over her face, puts her head back and wails. Jessica maintains a brave face but it’s obvious she’s crushed. She leaves quickly. Outside the hospital gates she unloads anger and sadness. “You know the only reason that baby died is because the generator stopped working,” she said, her voice cracking and tears falling. “I mean she was going to die anyway, but this killed her faster.” We talk about the idea of geographical fate. It’s unfair, Jessica says, that Nyanene was born into a land with no food. The five-month-old child was the size of a healthy newborn. It’s unfair that the generator failed. It’s unfair that it took nine minutes to come back on. “Why her? Anyone but her. I have spent so much time with her,” Jessica says. “This baby should have been dead months ago. But it had so much spirit. It fought and fought and fought. ” That evening the rains returned. As late afternoon turned into dark early evening, an ICRC Land Cruiser drove Nyamuoch toward her mud and straw home in Pagak. A white blanket with a fading pink and blue teddy bear sewed on the front covered Nyanene. An ICRC staff member in the front seat held the child; Nyamuoch sat in the back. The rain pounded on the windshield, and the vehicle nearly got stuck in deep mud. Nyamuoch’s home was too far from even the muddy side road to drive her all the way home. The car stopped at an aunt’s house. The older woman came out. Surely this was not the first time she had seen a dead infant, not in this country. The aunt took Nyanene, cradling her as you would a living, breathing, fighter-of-a-little-girl, and set off with the childless 20-year-old across a field of mud as sheets of rain poured down.”
Original material : digital
Resolution : 5433x3622
Orientation : landscape
Colour/B&W : colour