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.