From Sacrifice to New Life

From animal sacrifices to watching babies being born – what a week!

Budi Kemuliaan is a maternity hospital and midwifery school in Tanah Abang, a ten minute drive from our house. It was opened in 1912 and follows the teachings of Ibu Kartini, one of Indonesia’s most loved heroines. Kartini was born in 1879 and, for the twenty-five years of her life, campaigned relentlessly for girls’ education and women’s rights. These values are reflected in Budi Kemuliaan, making it one of the friendliest and most open hospitals I have ever visited.

So my week at Budi Kemuliaan: watching caesarean sections; cup feeding a day old baby; giving polio drops to a month old in the clinic. And everywhere, tiny adorable little babies. Oh, they were so cute! Look at the picture above (not that you can really tell). It was definitely an experience to remember and has totally reinforced the fact that I want to be a doctor – which is a good thing considering my place at university.

But what did I actually do?

Of course, being an eighteen year old with no medical experience meant there was a limit on what I was actually allowed to do. I spent most of my time following the doctors around and trying to understand what was going on. Everyone spoke Indonesian. Add that to the medical terminology and abbreviations and most of the time I was trying to link what I was seeing to things from ER… Not the easiest to understand.

But I did do some very cool things, which brings me to watching a C-section – absolutely terrifying. They take the actual uterus out! And then pull the baby out with such force it’s a wonder the mother can’t feel anything. And after that, there’s still seven layers to stitch back up. No wonder I felt like I was about to faint. Although, I’m going to blame it on the heat – I can deal with blood! At least I hope I can… Still, the happiness in the room hearing the baby’s first cries made everything worth it.  The look on the mother’s face when she first held him – it was as if she hadn’t just been cut open or lugging around extra kilos for months. That joy and happiness and wonder. One of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.

But it wasn’t all watching babies being born. I spent two days in the Neo-Natal ward and NICU (Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit) and saw babies with complications such as HIV, Hepatitis B and jaundice. Of course, the jaundice wasn’t such a problem – pop the baby in a blue light machine and let them soak up the UV. It made for a very warm room.

All the babies in the special care unit were checked regularly and fed with either expressed breastmilk or formula every few hours. The mothers were also brought in to breast feed and provide intermittent kangaroo care, especially important for premature babies. Kangaroo care, prolonged skin to skin contact between mother and baby, allows the baby’s body temperature and body systems to regulate themselves alongside the mothers. Exactly like kangaroos! Of course, it’s usually only necessary for babies under 2500g. Downstairs, in the post-partum ward, there was a whole room especially for mothers and babies who need KC. They remain in the hospital until the baby is a more reassuring weight.

Those are the exact things that stand Budi Kemuliaan apart from other maternity hospitals in Jakarta. They place extra emphasis on the importance of mother-baby bonding, breastfeeding and natural birth. In fact, the C-section rate is only 27% compared to an average 90% in other hospitals. 90%!! That’s ridiculously high. (In England, the C-section rate is roughly 28%). Add that to their policy of treating anyone who needs the help, regardless of class or financial status, you have a rather special place indeed.

Rather like the NHS, if it lasts.

But six days quickly came to an end and instead of learning about medicine, I found myself at home…

Learning about chocolate.

Last week’s Rumahku (a series of talks put on by Indonesian Heritage Society) was about the History of Chocolate, an occasion made all the more delicious for the tasters and refreshments in the garden. And the reassurance that chocolate is healthy. In fact, it is actually good for you – apparently it boosts memory, lowers blood pressure and gives you good cholesterol. The facts are all there! You can even check them out online. Although I should probably tell you that we’re only talking about 70% here. Still, what a great excuse to eat more chocolate…

Next week – volunteering at the Ubud Literary Festival. Aah!

Sampai jumpa!

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