Two of the four babies born in a day to a poverty-stricken couple and named after four celebrated doctors at the Upper East Regional Hospital have been reported dead.

The quadruplets- three boys and a girl- were delivered prematurely at 34 weeks at the regional hospital and christened Dr. Baffoe, Dr. Bogee, Dr. Apea-Kubi and Dr. Ellom at the couple’s request.

Whilst the babies were being looked after at the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, their father, Abdulai Haruna, who owns only a little farm in a rural community in the Bawku West District, looked completely blue in obvious grief. He is poor and he now has nine mouths to feed, having brought forth five children with his only wife, Ramata Haruna, already. When doctors confirmed there were four babies in her womb ahead of a caesarian section, his wife, exhausted under the live weights in her belly, had said she was not afraid of the theatre but of the inability to provide food and clothes for the newborns.

The couple’s open plea for public support, channeled through the media space, did not yield much. A few months after the babies were discharged from the hospital, Dr. Baffoe and Dr. Apea-Kubi, born too soon in a labour room, died too soon in a bedroom.

Dr. Apea-Kubi was taken ill and passed away after a home-made concoction was fed to him “not with an intention to kill but to heal”. Dr. Baffoe is said to have died suddenly in his sleep at the time the quadruplets’ mother reportedly was anaemic. The head of the hospital’s newborn care unit, Dr. Gillian Bogee, disclosed this when the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) together with the Ghana Health Service (GHS) observed the World Prematurity Day in Bolgatanga, Upper East regional capital.

The premature quadruplets born to the poor couple.

“I was together with Dr. Baffoe,” Dr. Bogee said, referring to the former Medical Director of the hospital. “We were returning to the hospital from a training programme. He was driving. Then, I had a phone call from Samira (a relative to the couple) telling me Dr. Baffoe is dead. I was like- Dr. Baffoe is dead? I actually said it aloud. So, Dr. Baffoe slowed down and looked at my face (in panic). He didn’t get what was going on. Then, I told him it was the baby named after him who just died. He then understood and continued driving. It’s a sad story. But the (initial) look on Dr. Baffoe’s face was funny.”

The needless horror of prematurity

The story of the departed preterm babies, told by Dr. Bogee to a gathering of stakeholders, left a broken sword in the heart of the audience.

It became the tone of the event, but in the midst of it some thought aloud- why worry when there are facilities to cater for born-too-soon babies? In Dr. Bogee’s words, families should be worried about prematurity because only about three in every ten cases will come out alive from the critical care room.

“We should be very much worried about prematurity. The fact that we have a facility that is put in place to take care of preterm babies does not mean that they all survive. When you have let’s say ten preterm babies, three would survive and others wouldn’t.

“It’s difficult for preterm babies to survive. And some who survive have a whole lot of complications. Some of them can have hearing problems. Some of them wouldn’t be intelligent in school. Some of them can’t even school at all. We have systems in place to help them survive but in the end the child could be a burden to the parents,” she said.

High prematurity cases in Upper East

Doctors say because the Upper East Region has too many cases of teenage pregnancies, there are also mind-blowing incidents of prematurity everywhere in the region.

“The cause of preterm delivery is not known. But, then, there are some risk factors, some conditions that contribute to an expectant mother ending up having a preterm delivery or a preterm baby. You can have some vaginal infections that can actually contribute to preterm delivery. We have multiple pregnancy- that is when the woman is carrying not one baby, but two, three or four babies. If the mother is a teenager, the tendency of having a preterm baby is very high. The mother herself is not that mature to carry that pregnancy.

“A mother who has had history of preterm delivery and in less than six months is pregnant again has a high risk of preterm delivery. Women who smoke whilst pregnant, diabetic mothers, overweight mothers, pregnant women who have hypertension, mothers who are always beaten, insulted or stressed up and mothers who are into alcoholism have a high risk of having preterm delivery,” Dr. Bogee pointed out, and strongly advised pregnant women to pay regular antenatal care visits “before it is too late”.

UNICEF donates equipment to save premature babies

According to UNICEF, about 128,000 babies were born prematurely in Ghana in 2015 with an estimated 8,300 children under 5 years dead from conditions linked to prematurity that same year.

“Many of these deaths could be avoided by simple practices such as hand washing with soap and water, exclusive breastfeeding and keeping the newborn warm,” UNICEF’s Representative in Ghana, Susan N. Ngongi, remarked at the commemoration of the World Prematurity Day.

UNICEF also donated to the Upper East Regional Hospital’s newborn care unit some tools including autoclaves, incubators, baby warmers, delivery beds, an operation table, radiant warmers, oxygen concentrators, cardiac monitors, a pulse oximeter and phototherapy machines.

“UNICEF’s role is targeted at ensuring that the right of every single child is safeguarded and making sure that there is equity as far as healthcare is concerned. So, we reach those who are unreached and we want to make sure they also get access to quality healthcare. We don’t want to leave every child behind. That is why UNICEF has been supporting the three northern regions in the recent four years to improve on maternal and newborn care- particularly newborn care,” a UNICEF health specialist, Dr. Priscilla Wobil, told newsmen.

World Prematurity Day is observed annually to raise awareness of the “heavy burden of death and disability, the psychological stress and the pain and suffering that preterm birth causes to families, communities and nations” across the globe.

The newborn care unit at the regional hospital is said to be a centre of overwhelming referrals from northern Ghana and southern Burkina Faso. Doctors say the facility now can accept more patients with UNICEF’s latest donation.

Source: Ghana/ Adeti