Life-saving and life-sustaining: Maternal, newborn interventions at work


By Monica Terez, RN
Clinical Program Manager
The Ohio State University College of Medicine

The sixth floor of Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa is a bustling place.

One wing is dedicated to the care of laboring mothers, many of whom require complicated care provided by midwives and obstetrical residents.

Another wing houses approximately 45 infants, all requiring some degree of newborn intensive care. The infants are not arranged in rooms by chance, but rather by the level of care they require.


One large room is dedicated to the most fragile infants, often born weeks or months before the mother’s due date. Due to a lack of sufficient equipment, infants often share a bed or isolette. Babies are kept warm by space heaters positioned throughout the unit.

At any one time, each nurse may be assigned to care for as many as 10 sick neonates over the course of a 14-hour nightshift.

Considering how busy the unit is at any given moment, it would be easy to miss the most important care providers – the mothers of those infants – who desire to give their baby the best chance for survival.

With the support of the physicians and nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit, mothers provide Kangaroo Care for their babies for many hours. Kangaroo Care allows the mother to hold her baby, skin to skin on her chest, thereby regulating the infant’s temperature, calming the baby, enhancing growth and promoting maternal/infant attachment.

Three rooms of the neonatal unit are dedicated solely to mothers to rest, breast-feed, care for their infants, and just do what mothers do best – love their babies.

Black Lion has long realized the importance of maternal involvement in the health and growth of infants.

The unit’s equipment may be sparse and malfunctioning, nurses may be few and far between, the workflow may be less efficient than desired, but one thing is for sure. At Black Lion Hospital, the mother has taken her rightful place as an important care provider for her infant.  THIS is newborn care at its best!


Learning from Ethiopia’s ‘MacGyver’ doctors


From left, Tikur Anbessa’s Dr. Mersha, neurosurgery chief, and Dr. Ebenezer with Ohio State’s Dr. Eric Sauvageau and Dr. Andrew Shaw as they enjoy coffee before making rounds at Tikur Anbessa (Black Lion) teaching medical center at Addis Ababa University. (Photo by Rick Harrison, Ohio State University Communications)

By Andrew Shaw
Clinical House Instructor at Wexner Medical Center, Ohio State

Since returning from Ethiopia I am filled with excitement. The people there are incredibly welcoming, warm, and giving. They invited us to see their patients, wards, and hospitals. The doctors there exhibit such passion for medicine, learning, and are always wanting a lecture.

Establishing a long term relationship with the Neurosurgery Department at Black Lion hospital will be mutually beneficial.

Upon our arrival, I believed we would be the teachers, but I often found myself on the learning end. The pathology they see is often advanced and requires much skill to treat.

You might recall the show MacGyver. As Wikipedia says, “Resourceful and possessed of an encyclopedic knowledge of the physical sciences, [MacGyver] solves complex problems with everyday materials he finds at hand, along with his ever-present duct tape and Swiss Army knife.”

Our Ethiopian partners are the “MacGyvers” of medicine doing amazing things with limited resources.