Last night Clark did an exchange transfusion.
This procedure is pretty incredible. A baby’s entire blood volume is removed syringe by syringe and then replaced twice over with someone else’s blood.
It is done when a baby’s bilirubin levels have climbed to the point of causing brain damage.
Bilirubin is a natural waste product constantly being created in our bodies as our red blood cells break down. It is processed by the liver and then the kidneys and intestines see it out the door.
But this baby’s red blood cells were being destroyed all at once. He had a different blood type than his mother and his immune system was not pleased with the presence of mom’s foreign blood antigens, likely introduced during delivery. Now his body was attacking and destroying his own blood cells. As they were destroyed, his bilirubin levels were skyrocketing.
At three days old he needed just two cups of blood to complete this procedure.
But here’s the truly incredible thing: before this night, the pediatric team at Tenwek had not done an exchange transfusion in almost two years.
When we arrived here in 2017, Clark was doing one every couple of months. What changed?
Phototherapy. You likely know or have had a child who was mildly jaundiced at birth and needed to be placed under “bili-lights” for a short time. For the past two years, these same lights have been saving babies who come to Tenwek with life-threatening bilirubin levels.
Well, maybe I shouldn’t say “these same lights.”
Our lights at Tenwek are not made in a factory or FDA approved. They are high-intensity, LED light, phototherapy units designed by Clark. For $30 a unit.
By the grace of God, through generous partners in the US, and after weeks spent measuring irradiance levels and tweaking blueprints, we now have five phototherapy units in the NICU which can be put over any incubator, cot, or even used for babies on the ventilator.
Today we are rejoicing over this baby. He is well and is expected to make a full recovery. The lights were not enough to bring his bilirubin levels down, but they have been sufficient for every other baby over the last two years. And we pray they may be for many more in the years to come.
“It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning and your faithfulness by night…
For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.”
Psalm 92: 1-4
More news.: We are coming to Kentucky! We will be there mid-May through July and hope to receive the COVID vaccine shortly after our arrival. We would love to schedule a visit with you now! Please email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) so we can arrange a time for chai or a walk.
And even more news: We are expecting! Baby Sleeth is due October 4th!!
To give: http://www.wgm.org/sleeth
*written by Val Sleeth