Thursday, November 11, 2010

NRT - Saving Babies

This past month we have been totally absorbed in mobilizing a major project known as NRT.
It is one of the five "Major Initiatives" that the Church's humanitarian department promotes, the others being: Clean Water, Wheelchairs, Vision, Food Production. Neonatal Resuscitation Training projects are only done in developing countries where the mortality rate for newborn infants is above 16 in 1,000 births. In Romania, approximately 23 out of 1,000 babies die at birth simply because they fail to breathe on their own. It is the #1 reason babies die at birth and as a mother, that thought makes me emotional. The memories I hold most dear are the ones when I heard those first welcome cries of my three children.

Click on the video below to watch one of our doctors explain the NRT in Africa.

Our project took us to Targu Mures and the largest hospital in Romania where 45 doctors and nurses assembled from neighboring cities to learn and practice skills taught by two doctors from Salt Lake City, Dr. George Bennett and Dr. Donna Dizon-Townson.

This is the hospital. After all we have heard (and seen) regarding the dire conditions of hospitals in Romania, we were pleasantly encouraged by this one. The most critical cases are life-flighted here. Here they do heart transplants and kidney transplants.

In the weeks that led up to this event, resuscitation kits were shipped to Romania from America. Each kit is packaged in a duffel bag and contains a newborn-size manikin and other medical supplies that will be used to train doctors and nurses. Each hospital represented will take a kit back to their staff where training and practicing will be ongoing. Also given to each hospital are additional supplies to actually be used in delivery rooms for resuscitation.

These "babies" are newborn size and are filled with water to make them life-like. The tubes and bulbs are managed by the instructor to simulate breathing and pulse. As the baby is given air appropriately, the chest begins to rise and the pulse can be felt through the umbilicus. It is very life-like and our Mission President's wife cheered when she witnessed a "baby" start to breathe!

I took this picture because I was impressed at the rapt attention of this class. They were mostly women--doctors and nurses all who have all had experience having or delivering babies. By their attention you can see there are few things in life more important than saving babies at birth.

Dr. Bennett is a retired Anesthesiologist from Salt Lake City. He and his wife volunteer their time to travel the world giving these classes. This week, 90 doctors and nurses from 40 hospitals were trained in sessions in Targu Mures and Bucharest. At the end of the week, we were exhausted and the Bennetts flew to Sarajevo for one more week of this! How do they keep going?

A huge part of this training is hands-on. Practice makes perfect.

Every practice table was managed by a doctor who had been trained previously. Having Romanians train Romanians is very important.

Everyone seemed to have a great time.

Dr. Donna Dizon-Townson is a practicing Neonatologist from Salt Lake City and assisted Dr. Bennett in teaching the skills.

As you can see, everyone took mastering these skills very seriously.

For me, I suffered a lapse in taking things seriously when I was enraptured by this hair-do, right out of the 70's BYU yearbook!

The Team:

Dr. George Bennett and Dr. Donna Dizon-Townson.

Meet Dr. Bennett's wife, Marcia. She was the driving force behind this project. From her home in America and through Skype, we collaborated on this project. She is now a good friend and one of the nicest and most delightful people we know.

This is Dr. Roxana Iliescu from Bucharest. She is a practicing Neonatologist and works in a NICU in Bucharest. With her, we facilitated all the details for the two hospitals. She is fabulous and we are better people for knowing her.

Here we are posing in front of Ramos as we left our first city, Targu Mures

This is a picture we took after dinner of the staff of doctors who helped with the teaching in Targu Mures.

The team of teachers.

All participants were given certificates of completion. Our course is recognized by the Romanian Neonatal Society and each graduate is given continuing education credit.

This is why we loved this week. Roxana took us on a tour of her NICU.

This couple had their first baby while we were involved in the training. They gladly posed with their doctor and new baby boy.

Final note: Sometimes we are overcome with amazement and indebtedness that we are humanitarian representatives of such a generous and giving religion. What other organization in the world would send retired couples into developing countries, teach them a language, put up with their lack of computer skills, train them in pulling off important trainings that will change lives and then shower them with encouragement and blessings they can hardly imagine?
We feel so honored to be here and to act as "His hands".


  1. Absolutely beautiful! Thanks for being there and sharing with us. Love to you both.

  2. So amazing. THat final picture is what it's all about. Love you!