Giving abandoned children a mother’s warmth

By Ngoc Ngan   November 5, 2023 | 01:00 am PT
Giving abandoned children a mother’s warmth
Trung Trinh (L) holding a baby at Angels Orphanage, Thu Duc City, Oct. 25, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/ Quynh Tran
At an orphanage, Trung Trinh held a baby to her bare chest. Her breathing slowed as she felt the baby’s tiny hand move, and slowly the baby closed its eyes and drifted to sleep.

After entrusting her own four-month-old baby to a relative, she traveled 15 km from her home to Angels Orphanage in Long Truong Ward, Thu Duc City, to engage in Kangaroo care (also known as skin-to-skin contact) with abandoned babies.

She is one of 10 volunteers taking care of three premature babies at 30, 31, and 35 weeks old. She was enlisted by Ngo Thuy, a 36-year-old specialist in children’s and women’s health in Ho Chi Minh City, which is home to the sub-municipality of Thu Duc.

After the three babies were abandoned by their mothers two months ago, the volunteers took them to Ho Chi Minh City Children’s Hospital 2 for treatment. One of the babies weighed only 1.1 kg when it was born, had a blood infection, and complications with its lungs.

One suffered from necrosis, had 60cm of its intestines removed, and had to use an artificial rectum. After their conditions became stable, they were discharged and entrusted to Angels Orphanage.

On Oct. 16, Thuy was the one who went to the hospital to pick up the three babies and take them to the orphanage. When they were brought out from the infant incubator, their skin was sallow and pale. As Thuy removed the oxygen tubes, she fed them their first spoons of milk. The 36-year-old woman’s maternal instincts act like medicine.

She performs Kangaroo care with the babies at Angels at least a few times a week. The name of this method for proxy child care and rearing refers to when the mother holds a baby to her bare chest, which helps regulate the baby’s heart rate, digestive system, and body temperature, as well as helping them sleep better.

Due to her busy work schedule and the demands of three babies at once, Thuy decided to ask for help. Just a few hours after she posted a call for help on social media, she received interest from the community and a total of 10 mothers came forward to help her.

They created a group chat to arrange shifts, each shift lasting from one to three hours, depending on the availability of each volunteer.

Ngo Thuy feeds milk to one of babies treated at the Ho Chi Minh City Children’s Hospital 2, Oct. 16, 2023. Photo courtesy of Thuy

Ngo Thuy feeds milk to one of babies treated at the Ho Chi Minh City Children’s Hospital 2, Oct. 16, 2023. Photo courtesy of Thuy

"The volunteers don’t mind the distance, and they all come with a mother’s readiness to help," Thuy said.

Huynh My is another volunteer living in Binh Thanh District, HCMC. She said that she felt moved when she stepped into the room with nearly ten babies in their cribs.

The nanny could not monitor all of them at the same time, so some played by themselves. As My held one of the premature babies to her chest, she was reminded of her one-year-old daughter at home.

"I felt pity because the baby went through so much as soon as it was born, so I wanted to give it some of my warmth," My said.

Ngoc is another volunteer currently residing in Pham The Hien Street, District 8, 30km away from the orphanage. She goes to the orphanage on weekends to take care of the babies. Whenever they wake up, she changes their diapers, gives them massages, and feeds them milk.

Ngo Thuy shared that the orphanage had received enough money to purchase a milk fridge for the babies. The breastmilk is carefully checked regularly.

After two weeks of skin-to-skin contact with the volunteers, the premature babies are now healthier.

The volunteers plan to finish their work when the babies are as healthy as other 40-week-old babies.

Vo Dung Hanh, the manager of Angels Orphanage, said that they have been taking care of orphaned children since 2010. They receive many cases of premature babies in frail health, and some have severe infections.

Ngo Thuy is a long-time volunteer with them, often tasked with asking for breastmilk donations from new mothers.

Two weeks ago, the orphanage took in the three babies mentioned above. Hanh said she immensely appreciated all of the volunteers’ efforts when she saw the positive influence they had on the babies.

"We hope that this display of love from the volunteers will help the babies grow healthily," she said.

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