Image: @PhophiRamathuba/Twitter

Dedicated midwives in rural South Africa improvised to deliver nine healthy babies while the hospital was completely flooded and with no electricity.

On the evening of December 20 last year a severe hailstorm hit the Jane Furse Memorial Hospital in rural Limpopo, South Africa. All parts of the hospital – units, theatres, and administration blocks were flooded, some even submerged. The storm hit out the electricity and then the generator was damaged by a lightning strike. Hundreds of patients were evacuated to nearby hospitals, with firefighters assisting those who were trapped. This was achieved with no injury to patients or staff.

The evacuation was however not an option for the women in active labor. The midwives and one doctor on duty stepped up to the challenge and assisted in delivering nine healthy babies after which these mothers and their newborns were also transferred to another hospital. Due to the shortage of doctors in rural South Africa most deliveries in government hospitals, which serve the majority of the population, are conducted by midwives.

The midwives had to use their cell phones as a source of lighting. They even improvised and used cardboard toilet rolls to monitor the fetal heart rates as the electronic monitoring devices were no longer functioning.

The midwives had to use their cell phones as a source of lighting. 

The following day the Member of the Executive Committee for Health of the Provincial Legislature, Phophi Ramathuba, commended the midwives for their work.  “These are my heroes and heroines – team Jane Furse maternity wards in the middle of storms, hail, power failure, generator struck by lightning, they delivered 9 babies, Apgar score 10/10. Mothers and babies are well,” tweeted Ramathuba. “After all, ours is to save life.”

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“I’m so happy because the nurses showed us so much love and kindness,” exclaimed one of the mothers. “They even gave my baby the name “Hailstorm.” This name reflects one of the African naming traditions of deriving a baby’s name from an event surrounding their birth.

The flooding and damage to the hospital were so severe that after a week of mopping-up operations only portions of the hospital could be reopened.

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