Scenario: Largest maternity hospital in the local scene; I did a 6 month rotation through the Neonatal ICU.
I saw and did things which I would never have imagined if I hadn't gone through this posting. Among the unforgettable are congenital abnormalities some of which I would be unlikely to see again in this lifetime.
SIRENOMELIA: Or the Mermaid Syndrome. This baby was a BBA (our acronym for Born Before Arrival), still birth, born to a Malay family. It (unclear of it's gender) had just one fused limb with a single toe. The upper half of the baby looked absolutely normal.
CUTIS APLASIA: The baby was literally born without any skin. According to literature, this rare condition usually affects part of the body, most commonly the scalp. However, in the case that was admitted, the ENTIRE baby had no skin. He was covered by a thin transparent glistening membrane. You could see his muscles, superficial blood vessels etc. We kept him as comfortable as possible; setting an I/V on him was a nightmare. He survived for 3 days before passing away.
ANENCEPHALY: This was an undiagnosed case, because of lack of antenatal follow-up. The baby was a stillbirth.
ACHONDROPLASIA: This was also undiagnosed antenatally, despite adequate follow-up. Understandably, the mother was depressed. We kept the otherwise healthy baby boy in the ward longer than normal to prevent the parents from doing anything "drastic" in the immediate post-partum period, and arranged for them to see a counsellor.
One of the most heart-wrenching, gratifying, stressful, tedious tasks we had to perform was the resuscitation and intensive monitoring of premature babies, some as small as 700 grams. Blood gases, electrolytes, parenteral nutrition all had to be closely watched to keep them alive. It became a bit of a moral dilemna for me after watching the effects of surviving prematurity: CP, BPD, developmental delays, mental retardation (some more severe than others). Was it worth saving their lives? I had to accept that the moral decision was not mine to make; as doctors, we were there solely to save lives when called to do so. There was even one instance of a mid-trimester TOP who called for the NICU MO-on-duty (moi) to go to the gynae ward to resuscitate the 23 week old fetus who had been expelled & was actually crying! This little life clung on for 3 days before letting go...It was hard not to weep with the mother, who, for whatever reason, had to go through this ordeal and live with her decision.
This posting was the most stressful and at the same time the most enriching one I had gone through. Not only did I learn so much about the resilience of babies (they are not as fragile as one might think), but it would later serve me well for my adventures as a new mom (I did not become one of those panicky moms who would call the pediatricians when Baby refused to stop crying/refused to suck/poo-ed too much/poo-ed too little). And in the rare free moments, the nurses taught me how to feed/burp/bathe the babies - this definitely was good practice!