One of my lawyer friends opted not to study medicine at university because he hated night duty. It remains the most trying part of the medical profession. In my view it makes the medical profession a calling rather than a job. And to be interrupted from that nice soccer match or formula one race or tennis or a movie by an emergency call can be destabilizing, especially if the call is at 1am in the night.
That however is exactly what happened when my phone rang and the anesthetist on the other end informed me that she had been requested by the obstetrician to call in immediately. Not to consult me, but for me to drive to the hospital urgently, over 20kms away. “Is that an emergency, needing my presence?” I asked. “Yes,” she answered, “it’s a mother who started experiencing labour at 32 weeks (just under eight months); and now the labour is progressing poorly.
Besides, they’ve had no child after 12 years of marriage; then she is carrying twins. She conceived through In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).” I thought for a few seconds and said, “I am on my way; let’s go in, tell pharmacist to get surfactant, enough for two babies”.
As I drove to the hospital, I remembered first how many mothers are childless and how many marriages break up due to this problem. It is a big and very expensive effort for couples to consider IVF, where the sperm and egg are fertilized, then implanted into the mother to carry the pregnancy until nine months when she can deliver. Many people wonder whether these babies turn out like normal ones. My experience is that there is no difference, only that they are more likely to be born pre-term. Indeed when I got to hospital, we successfully delivered twins.
I gave surfactant therapy and admitted them to the nursery. They turned two years last month, healthy bouncy babies. We need to consider and actively advocate for IVF for couples who can afford it, so that we help cure the big challenge of childlessness.
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