Bhutan’s first air-born baby

Business Bhutan - - Front Page - Kr­ishna Ghal­ley

It was on Mon­day morn­ing, when eight-month preg­nant San­gay Rigzin, 34, started feel­ing se­vere la­bor pain at her home in Pang­bang. Clue­less, her hus­band Kuen­lay Dor­jee, a free­lance eco­tourism guide by pro­fes­sion, rushed to the Pan­bang Ba­sic Health Unit (BHU) to seek emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vice.

While aware that Pang­bang just had a BHU and that com­pli­cated cases were mostly re­ferred to Gele­phu, Kuen­lay Dor­jee, how­ever, see­ing the pain that his wife was go­ing through, had no other op­tion than to take her to the BHU.

And just a minute drive from the town at around 11 am, com­pli­ca­tion height­ened for San­gay Rigzin. While the staff at the BHU con­firmed San­gay Rigzin’s de­liv­ery by 5 pm, things were get­ting worse with each pass­ing minute.

The BHU staff then ad­vised him to re­fer his wife to Gele­phu Re­gional Re­fer­ral Hos­pi­tal. How­ever, with­out any con­fir­ma­tion of a safe de­liv­ery, Kuen­lay Dor­jee hes­i­tated to take his wife as it in­volved a day’s jour­ney on bumpy roads.

Later, he was ad­vised to air­lift his wife to the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck Na­tional Re­fer­ral Hos­pi­tal (JDWNRH). Kuen­lay Dor­jee agreed.

“Still I felt that would be the best al­ter­na­tive, which of course was risky. I was ner­vous,” says Kuen­lay Dor­jee. Af­ter the chop­per was con­firmed from the Royal Bhutan He­li­copter Ser­vices Lim­ited, Kuen­lay Dor­jee read­ied him­self and his wife with his cousin. It was al­ready late evening by then.

And af­ter some time a chop­per landed at Gal­abi, a he­li­pad above the town. Kuen­lay Dor­jee along with his cousins packed their lug­gage and rushed to the spot, fol­low­ing the am­bu­lance which was fer­ry­ing his wife in la­bor pain.

He did not opt for road trans­port be­cause of the his­tory of sim­i­lar com­pli­ca­tions hav­ing un­der­gone by his wife. The two chil­dren the cou­ple had were born when San­gay Rigzin was seven-month preg­nant.

Af­ter the chop­per landed, two-mem­ber team from the Bhutan Emer­gency Aeromed­i­cal Retrival (BEAR) and BHU staff rushed the pa­tient into the chop­per and was air­lifted im­me­di­ately. A very com­plete and per­fect team, ac­cord­ing to Kuen­lay Dor­jee, had pro­vided ev­ery help dur­ing the jour­ney.

The sit­u­a­tion wors­ened again af­ter 20 min­utes on flight. San­gay Rigzin’s la­bor pain in­ten­si­fied and the mem­brane started to break, sig­nal­ing the baby was on its way out.

“I thought we would not make it. The en­tire scene was like a movie,” Kuen­lay Dor­jee says. “But I was happy that the med­i­cal team was do­ing their job and I went on to con­sole my cry­ing wife.”

Af­ter cross­ing Trongsa, the baby boy was born at 4:34 pm. The preterm baby, weigh­ing 2.48 kilo­grams, was the first case in Bhutan to be de­liv­ered in a mid­flight dur­ing a med­i­cal evac­u­a­tion.

The story of the air­born baby was in­formed by for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Dasho Tsh­er­ing Tob­gay, who also shared some pic­tures on his Face­book page on Wed­nes­day and stated, “Bhutan wel­comes first air-born baby”.

Mean­while, a nurse at JDWNRH, Cheki Wangchuk, says the team has done a tremen­dous job de­spite such a case be­ing the first one. “We were equipped with nec­es­sary re­quire­ments. And we did it suc­cess­fully. It’s a proud mo­ment for the whole team,” he adds.

“I was just pray­ing for a safe de­liv­ery,” says Kuen­lay Dor­jee, with a sigh of re­lief.

The birthing pro­ce­dures were then com­pleted af­ter re­mov­ing the pla­centa and um­bil­i­cal chord. The child was then placed on the mother’s lap. The baby, ac­cord­ing to the staff, was healthy de­spite be­ing preterm.

“I was blessed with a baby boy born on air. I could hear the first cry of my baby on board. That was a big­gest re­lief,” he said.

Af­ter an­other 45 min­utes, the chop­per landed at the Lungten­phu he­li­pad and there were staff wait­ing from the JDWNRH. The mother was then rushed to the hos­pi­tal to com­plete the de­liv­ery pro­ce­dures. San­gay Rigzin was ad­mit­ted in the ma­ter­nity ward, while the baby was kept at the Mother and Post Natal Unit for a day.

“Ev­ery­thing was per­fect at the hos­pi­tal. The staff helped the pa­tient. I am thank­ful to the pilot for a safe flight and the staff who have ren­dered their help­ing hands,” says Kuen­lay Dor­jee.

Kuen­lay Dor­jee also ad­mits hav­ing re­ceived a con­grat­u­la­tory call from for­mer Ly­onch­hen Dasho Tsh­er­ing Tob­gay. The baby boy has been presently named, Nam­dru Dorji, which was given by the baby’s grand­fa­ther.

“I have not thought of other names. But will con­sult Bud­dhist priest,” Kuen­lay Dor­jee said.

Kuen­lay Dor­jee is re­lieved that ev­ery­thing went well. He is wait­ing for his wife and baby boy to get dis­charged so that he can take them home.

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