World Prematurity Day |18 November 2023
10 preemies graduate
after beating all odds
By Vidya Gappy
To commemorate World Prematurity Day yesterday, November 17, ten (10) preemies graduated, triumphing over health challenges they faced in their early months.
The chosen theme for this year is ‘small action-big impact – immediate skin-to-skin care for every baby everywhere’.
Eight out of ten graduates attended the ceremony, wearing their special onesies with their names for the graduation event held at the Sheikh Khalifa Centre at the Seychelles Hospital, organised by the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
Dr Juliette Rioux highlighted that on November 17, 2008, the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (ECFNI) designated this day as World Prematurity Day to raise awareness about its impact on parents, families, health systems, and society as a whole.
She shared that the pediatric department of the Seychelles Hospital initiated the Graduation of Preemies from NICU last year, where they had five graduates.
“Although their numbers were small, much like their size, birth weights, and gestational age, prematurity profoundly affects parents, leading to feelings of powerlessness, stress, and mental health issues. It affects families, straining both parental relationships and parent-child bonds. Additionally, it impacts neonates with various medical problems and sequelae.”
Furthermore, Dr Rioux emphasised the strain on the health system due to the escalating costs of caring for patients during and after their NICU stay, particularly those with medical complications.
Dr Rioux shared some statistics regarding preemies in the NICU. In Seychelles, a viable fetus is considered to be at 26 weeks gestation or 800g. Prematurity is defined as birth occurring before 37 weeks, with extreme prematurity being less than 28 weeks, very preterm from 28 to 32 weeks, and late preterm from 32 to 37 weeks. In 2020, there were 122 NICU admissions, with 58 being premature, and 19 of those were born under 32 weeks. In 2021, out of 138 admissions, 70 were premature, with 27 born under 32 weeks. In 2022, out of 120 admissions, 56 were premature, and 27 were born under 32 weeks.
Globally, one in ten babies is born prematurely, constituting 10% of total births and posing a significant risk of morbidity and mortality, including respiratory distress, cerebral palsy, and developmental delays.
Dr Jadhav Chandrashekar, the director of hospital services, commended NICU services for their dedication in helping premature babies survive, acknowledging the teamwork involving nurses who work tirelessly to support parents and maintain the health of the babies.
Raymonde Onezime shared her story of having two babies born prematurely, detailing the stress she endured, especially when the youngest had to undergo surgery as an infant.
Dr Brigitte Bristol made a thorough presentation on Kangaroo Care, also known as skin-to-skin care. It is a method of holding a newborn baby against the bare chest of a parent or caregiver. She explained the practice involves direct skin contact, with the baby positioned upright and nestled between the breasts, often with a blanket draped over their back.
“Kangaroo Care offers numerous benefits, including promoting bonding between the parent and baby, regulating the baby's body temperature, stabilising heart and respiratory rates, and supporting breastfeeding initiation. It is particularly beneficial for premature infants, aiding in their development and overall well-being.”
In conclusion, Dr Javier Rose assured parents that they would not be left alone and encouraged them to come forward with any concerns.
He expressed gratitude for the success of the programme and pledged ongoing support to the team and the parents.
Yesterday, NICU also released its first newsletter, and all preemies received graduation hats, gifts, and fruit hampers.
The accompanying photos show highlights of the ‘graduation’ ceremony.
Photos: Vidya Gappy