Blogging for social change in PNG: The PNG Attitude connection
PNG businesses suffer high costs from crime and violence

Drama on the high seas as student saves mother and baby

Mother Grace Tambor and student health extension officer Margaret Kalisi holding newborn baby girlDAVID WAPAR

YOUNG mother Grace Tambor could have died but for a final year rural Health Extension Officer (HEO) student from Divine Word University who delivered a first born child on the high seas between Rai Coast and Madang town.

HEO student Margaret Kalisi said Grace was in labour when she was rushed to a local clinic where she and her colleagues were as part of their 10-week rural health centre practical engagement.

Margaret said Grace, from Biliau in the Rai Coast District, was due to deliver her first child on Wednesday 6 August at the local clinic, however the baby was in breech footling position posing a risk for both mother and child.

She said the health officer in charge of the clinic was in Madang and so she was prompted to act in the emergency.

“There were no supervisors at the clinic so I decided we should further seek help,” said the health student.

Margaret said she made a decision to escort Grace from Biliau by dinghy to Modilon General Hospital in Madang town – a three hour trip on the high seas.

Disregarding the notorious waters of Astrolabe Bay, where many maritime mishaps involving small craft have occurred, the Southern Highlands student accompanied her patient on the three-hour boat trip to Madang.

An hour into the trip the ordeal turned into a precarious obstetric emergency at sea.

“The mother couldn’t hold it any longer after the boat’s jolts and bumps,” Margaret said. “She delivered right there, out at sea, at around 5:00 pm.

“If I was not there the mother would have faced serious problems.

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

Time was against Margaret and the young mother but the student put into practice what she had been taught.

“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 there.

It’s an experience I will never forget” Margaret said.

Grace was a happy mother after receiving medical attention at Modilon General Hospital.

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

Margaret, Grace and the baby girl have since returned to Biliau village.

Margaret is among 111 third and fourth year rural health students who do their practical training in rural health centres in Madang, Morobe and Eastern Highlands provinces.

The rural health program at DWU trains health extension officers to work in rural health facilities.

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

“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,” she said.

Dr Koka added that such practical experience by a trainee in the open sea is a test of the training conducted at the university.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Robby Less

Great story, hence it needs to be told in parliament. Billions for flyovers, superhighways, freeways etc. Yet rural health is still in despair.

Maureen Wari

Mother in labour, baby in breech footling position, OIC for clinic absent, no supervisors, 3 hour dinghy ride in high seas and delivery of the baby and care for the mother of the baby one hour into the ride by Margaret an undergraduate, who is not used to the sea... Brave, courageous and a job seriously well done. She (Margaret) has earned herself experience and a certain amount of confidence. Great story.

Francis S Nii

Being a highlander and delivering baby especially when it was a breach birth is quite a feat. Well done, Margaret!

John Kaupa Kamasua

A good human story that touches at the core of one of the fundamental development challenges that face us as a country.

Thank you for telling it and thanks to the people who are behind the story.

It should highlight the predicaments that rural mothers and their children and the efforts to address them.


Gabriel Ramoi

Well done indeed. Breach birth in PNG without a doctor is almost always fatal and Margaret's achievement in saving the life of her young patient must be highly commended.

Thank you Keith for carrying this story which helps highlight the high risk associated with childbirth in rural PNG and points to the urgent need to train more paramedics in our country.

Robin Lillicrapp

Well done, Margaret. And kudos to those who trained you to be ready for just such an occasion.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)