In more than 35 years as a pediatrician, Dr. Kathleen Braico has helped countless children get a healthy start to life.
A recent trip to Bangladesh likely compounded those numbers significantly.
Braico spoke passionately about the hospital — a facility created seven decades ago by Shaha, a man whose mother died during childbirth when he was 7. He vowed to do something about it, Braico said, so he created the hospital in the region in which he grew up.
He first built the hospital, which provides care to those who can’t afford it, then a women’s medical college, at which Braico taught.
It’s there — training medical and nursing staffs and the nursing instructors, who will in turn train nurses and midwives — that Braico feels her work will have a ripple effect.
“As a general rule, when you educate a woman in the third world, she returns to her home and works there,” Braico said.
The medical college has three different midwifery courses: a three-year course for nurses; an 18-month course for midwives; and a six-month class for skilled birth attendants.
“It’s an important source of professionals for Bangladesh,” Braico said.
Braico and Umma Amina, a high-risk labor and delivery nurse at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland, California, taught three classes over a week-and-a-half stay. The classes were Helping Babies Breathe, which was established by the World Health Organization and the Academy of Pediatrics and teaches how to resuscitate a newborn; Essential Care for Every Baby, which teaches stabilization in a child’s first 24 hours and recognition of potentially life-threatening problems such as sepsis or jaundice; and Helping Mothers Survive Bleeding After Birth, since postpartum hemorrhage is the No. 1 killer of women in childbirth.
“For a midwife all by herself in some small village too far from help, a woman can die in an hour, so if she’s two hours from the nearest hospital, the midwife has to know what to do to help that woman before she can be transferred to a facility,” Braico said.
According to Braico, about a third of women in Bangladesh give birth without a skilled attendant — often with only her mother or mother-in-law present.
Statistics like that are why Rotary was involved.
“Rotary emphasizes various things — education, health, pure water, peace and so on — so global health is a significant Rotary concern,” said Steve Williams, a member of Granville Rotary who helped organize Braico’s trip.
When Williams’ club was looking for a project to pursue, he contacted an old school friend, who had an acquaintance who suggested Kumidini Hospital.
Williams acted as a liaison, securing funding from the region’s Rotary district, which includes Burnt Hills/Ballston Lake, Glens Falls, Lake George and Granville chapters, and from Rotary Club of Dhaka West. He also coordinated the delivery of medical supplies.
That equipment is something Braico finds particularly remarkable. She marvels at the technology of Laerdal, a company that makes “ingenious” teaching tools, including simulator infant mannequins that are filled with warm water for realistic feel and weight, with a chest that actually rises and falls and an umbilical cord that pulsates; reusable Ambu bags for resuscitating infants; reusable suction devices; and even a simulator belly, complete with a uterus and placenta.
“It’s absolutely fun to play with this stuff,” Braico said, admiring the technology that helped her teach.
That love of learning, Williams said, is what led Rotary to Braico, who has regularly visited Guatemala on Glens Falls Medical Mission trips since 1998. As a member of that organization’s board, Braico presented to Glens Falls Rotary. “She modifies first-world medical techniques for the third world,” Williams said.
“When I go in to resuscitate a baby,” Braico said, “I know there are lights and electricity and people who know what they’re doing to help, but you can’t guarantee anything in Guatemala or Bangladesh.”
At one delivery she witnessed at a public health clinic in Guatemala, the power had gone out — “no big surprise,” Braico noted. A generator powered lights in the hallway, but not in the rooms, so a nurse stood next to the laboring woman with a lighted candle.
“That kind of thing happens,” she said. “They simply don’t have the equipment we have. We use Ambu bags once and dispose of them; they use surgical gloves, wash and dry them and use them again.”
Braico was particularly excited by being able to leave necessary technology with those she trained. She has already received an email from a resident with whom she worked, saying two babies were saved using the methods she taught. “See?” she beamed. “They did it. I’m so thrilled!”
During training, Braico had each participant teach what they learned to a colleague. “That was a key part of it, that she was training trainers,” Williams said. “That’s what Rotary, when putting money into countries, would like it to be: sustainable.”