Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
ST ANN'S BAY, St Ann:
According to the laws of nature, baby Khaliyah Smith was due to be born in February 2013. "She is due next month," joked her mom Karen Roberts while she held her little daughter in her arms with unbridled joy as she sat in the paediatric ward at the St Ann's Bay Regional Hospital last week Saturday.
The reality is, little Khaliyah was born two and a half months early, on November 7, 2012, the tiny bundle of joy weighing an astonishing one and a half pounds.
Miraculously, she survived, but she had to spend 68 days in a ventilator at the hospital before being released and given the all-clear to go home.
Chances are Khaliyah would not have been alive today were it not for two ventilators donated to the hospital by the Issa Trust Foundation (ITF).
Two infant ventilators valued at more than J$2 million were officially donated to the facility last November by the ITF after having been installed at the institution for some time.
The donation has been considered a significant upgrade to the bag-mask ventilation, a manual technique previously used by the hospital.
Ventilators are machines that provide breathing support for ill or premature babies who are often too weak to breathe properly on their own.
On Saturday, Roberts met the persons who made it possible. She spared no words in expressing her appreciation and described her joy over the survival of her baby and for being able to finally hold her and take her home.
"This morning, I met the persons who donated the ventilator, and I'm so grateful," Roberts told The Gleaner. "Because of them this is possible!" said the ecstatic mother.
Speaking about the ventilator, Roberts said: "I have benefited greatly from it. My baby was born premature - six and a half months. She was very, very tiny. In fact, she's big right now in comparison to where she was. She spent 68 days on the ventilator. It helped her, and she's right here in my arms. A blessing! A miracle! I am overwhelmed."
For the nearly 10 weeks that baby Khaliyah spent on the ventilator, Roberts prayed and hoped for the best. She received moral support from all quarters - friends, family, co-workers.
"It was overwhelming. I could not have done it without them - everybody!"
Roberts said her son, Kevoy, "absolutely adores" his little sister. "He would say, 'Mommy can I borrow her? I want to borrow her.' She's a blessing."
Diane Pollard, president and CEO of ITF and several members of a medical mission team from the United States of America, were at the hospital.
The visiting team was involved in a second round of training of hospital staff members in the use of the ventilators.
Jamie Sklar, a Registered Nurse from Philadelphia, has been working with the ITF for several years as a member of the medical mission. She explained that the ventilators were a donation from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
"I think Jamaica is at a place where they need the help of technology and training, and that's what we've been providing with these ventilators," Sklar said.
Keisha Bramwell, supervisor on the paediatric ward and one of the nurses trained in the use of the machines, said the equipment provided more in-depth care for patients.
"With the help we are able to give now, we don't have to transfer our patients that much. We now are able to give them the emergency care that they need in a short space of time," Bramwell said.
Pollard, commenting on ITF's involvement, said what made the foundation different from others was that they not only brought much-needed equipment, but also provided training.
"We do this because it's the right thing to do. We love Jamaica, we want to make a difference, we are able to make a difference," Pollard said.
St Ann's Bay Regional Hospital CEO Keith Richards said the partnership between ITF and the hospital had facilitated an improvement in the quality of service being offered at the institution.
"We have saved a large number of lives! Babies have gone home with mommy much happier and much healthier. I believe the initiative and approach by Issa Trust paediatric care is going to go a very far way in this country," Richards said. He also appealed for others to come on-board and support the hospital.
PHOTOS BY KAREN SUDU