Christine’s Story – A Champion of Change

This blog is part of a series introducing the 2014 International Midwife Award sponsored by The International Confederation of Midwives and Save the Children. These blogs were adapted from the applications of finalists. The award winners will be announced at this year’s International Confederation of Midwives 30th Triennial Congress in Prague, Czech Republic on June 3rd.

Finalist, Sister Christine Otai, is the manager of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and Maternity departments at Kiwoko Hospital, a remote hospital in the Nakaseke district of central Uganda. She has worked at Kiwoko since 1989 when it was merely a health center with a handful of maternity beds. I met Christine in 2000 shortly after The ISIS Foundation began its partnership with the Kiwoko Hospital to improve maternal, infant and child health. Today, the NICU treats over 750 premature and sick infants, and the maternity ward delivers more than 2,000 babies annually.

Christine attends to high risk deliveries. She utilizes resuscitation techniques, stabilization and safe transfer of newborn infants. She supports initiation of treatment, including complicated intensive therapy in accordance with the agreed guidelines and protocols. Christine guides student nurses practicing in the NICU and Maternity ward, building their confidence and competence in infant and maternal care. She is a qualified trainer in neonatal resuscitation and has been directly involved in the training of over 500 staff, all of whom have the essential skills to impact the first critical moments in an infant’s life.

Christine cares for a premature newborn with Kangaroo Mother Care. Photo by Jonathan Torgovnik.

Also under her guidance, Kangaroo Mother Care and other neonatal health interventions have been rolled out at the hospital, with a noticeable reduction in complications for low birth weight infants. Just eight years ago, babies weighing 1.0-1.4kg had only a 31% chance of survival. Today, thanks to expert care from Kiwoko staff under Christine’s leadership, these tiny babies now have an 86% chance of survival.

Christine has also been a driving force, and primary trainer for the implementation of the Community Based Healthcare program. The program trains local volunteers to check for warning signs of complications for the newborn and in pregnancy and to refer women to health facilities if medical aid is needed. These volunteers provide education on childbirth to women in the community, reaching 44 villages in the area surrounding Kiwoko Hospital.

Christine is knowledgeable on every patient who comes into the wards, their family, their specific needs, and with limited resources, does everything to ensure they receive the best care possible. It is Christine’s drive and compassion that pushes her staff and peers to excel, and to never give up and to keep learning. It has been a privilege to work with Christine through my role as Clinical Programs Director for The ISIS Foundation.

Congratulations to Christine Otai on her nomination to this year’s 2014 International Midwife Award. She was also recognized as the runner-up for the International Neonatal Nursing Award in 2010.

This blog was written by Christine’s nominator, Deborah Lester. Deborah Lester is a clinician with 25 years of experience in the field of Maternal and Child Health, specializing in Global and Public Health. In particular, Deborah’s expertise lies in maternal and child health in an international development context, focusing on diverse and underserved populations in resource limited settings.

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