A shift that lasts 12 hours but delivers a lifetime of happiness
ABU DHABI // It is just after 10am and nearby the faint whimper of a baby’s cries can be heard. Further down the hall muffled groans can be heard from a mother in labour.
This is just a regular Sunday shift for resident Dr Khulood Ali Al Suwaidi in the urgent care unit at Abu Dhabi’s Corniche Hospital, the largest maternity hospital in the country.
“It is always like this,” she says with a smile.
The Emirati is embarking on her third year in the hospital’s residency programme specialising in obstetrics and gynaecology. Since joining she has witnessed the delivery of more babies than she can count and dealt with many medical emergencies.
A typical 12-hour shift begins at 7.30am with patients varying from those in labour, women suffering from pregnancy complications such as abnormally high blood pressure or women with gynaecological complaints.
By 11.30am an Emirati walks into the emergency room announcing she is in labour with her fourth child. She is at 36 weeks and two days and is doubled over in pain.
“She has three children so she knows she is in labour,” says Dr Al Suwaidi.
She checks the 31-year-old patient to determine the position of the baby. If breached, she may need a caesarean.
Checks show the baby is in the head-down position but the foetal heartbeat is higher than it should be. This could indicate dehydration or fever in the mother, says Dr Al Suwaidi. The patient queries to when she might give birth.
At one contraction every 10 minutes, the patient probably has a while to go, says Dr Al Suwaidi.
It is a quiet start to the shift. Typically, staff say about 80 per cent of those who come to the urgent care unit – about 45 for every 12-hour rotation – are not real emergencies.
However, it is their job to care for these women, many of whom are in distress at the thought of something being wrong with their unborn child.
A large part of Dr Al Suwaidi’s job, therefore, is reassuring women.
A panicking patient arrives complaining of severe abdominal pains a week after a C-section.
Despite this being normal, often it helps just to explain this to the patient, says Dr Al Suwaidi.
Another prospective mother also seeks advice. She has to travel and is worried about her unborn child. Scans show he has shortened lower limbs, kyphosis of the spine, a narrow chest and a prominent pelvis. This may indicate congenital abnormalities which carries a higher risk of miscarriage, says Dr Al Suwaidi.
About 8,000 babies were born at the Corniche Hospital last year.
“It is a challenging field – it is not an easy one because we deal with two human beings – not one,” she says. “We have the mother and the baby.”
Watching the moment a newborn flutters his eyes open for the first time is the best part of the job, says the 28-year-old. “To take a child from the womb and put him in his mother’s arms. It makes you happy.”
Updated: July 28, 2014 04:00 AM