Midwife saves life after Pacific Partnership course

Published on LCDR Peter Croce (author)

Royal Australian Navy Lieutenant Commander Alison Zilko and United States Army Captain Jenna DiMaggio run through their paces for the the Helping Babies Breathe course for Pacific Partnership 2015. (photo: UNKNOWN)
Royal Australian Navy Lieutenant Commander Alison Zilko and United States Army Captain Jenna DiMaggio run through their paces for the the Helping Babies Breathe course for Pacific Partnership 2015.

A Pohnpei midwife credits Australian Navy and US Army nurses with helping her save a baby's life just hours after completing a course during PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP 2015.

Bernolina Hedson was a student in the 'Helping Babies Breathe' course taught during PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP by Royal Australian Navy Lieutenant Commander Alison Zilko and United States Army Captain Jenna DiMaggio in late June.

Just nine hours after the completion of her first day’s training, Ms Hedson used her newly obtained knowledge to successfully resuscitate a newborn. 

While delivering a baby, Ms Hedson was surprised to find an undiagnosed twin pregnancy, with the other foetus still in-utero and breech just 45 minutes later she delivered the second baby, who had a low heart beat and no spontaneous breathing.

She said she immediately remembered the training from earlier that day and was able to successfully resuscitate the child within seven minutes.

“The first thing that popped into my mind after delivering the baby was to use the knowledge and skills learned earlier in the day for routine care of the newborn,” Ms Hedson said. 

According to Ms Hedson, the baby is expected to make a full recovery and join his brother at their mother's side.

Lieutenant Commander Zilko said she was excited and elated that the baby had survived a traumatic birth and that the lessons from the previous day had made a difference.

“I love the fact that I am able to provide subject matter knowledge and practical experience to nurses and doctors in these countries who will be able to provide a better level of care to their community, long after we have gone,” Lieutenant Commander Zilko said.

“I enjoy being able to pass on my many years of nursing skills, knowledge and it’s the simple things that make the biggest difference.”

Royal Australian Navy Lieutenant Commander Alison Zilko teaches a student in the Helping Babies Breath course on Pacific Partnership 2015.

Royal Australian Navy Lieutenant Commander Alison Zilko teaches a student in the Helping Babies Breath course on Pacific Partnership 2015.

Lieutenant Commander Zilko has been involved primarily in educating midwives on obstetric care, neonatal care, and neonatal resuscitation.

She has also participated in running courses, including 'Helping Babies Breathe', 'Neonatal resuscitation' and 'Basic First Aid'.

“Having a strong emergency background, I have also been fortunate to use my skills and knowledge in MEDCAPS, providing primary health care to communities with limited medical facilities.

“I volunteered for this role as I get great satisfaction in providing support to the people in countries where their level of health care is very basic indeed.

“We take for granted that we have the best health care in the first world in Australia, and if I can help make a small difference in these poorer countries, then my years of nursing has not been wasted.

“I love providing humanitarian aid to those less privileged, and feel very humble to be given this wonderful opportunity to deploy.”

This is the first time that the 'Helping Babies Breathe' course has been taught during PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP by US and partner nation military personnel.

The course is designed to teach those who attend deliveries in austere environments to help babies breathe in the first crucial minutes of their lives.

Now in its 10th iteration, PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP is the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region.

While training for crisis conditions, PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP missions have provided medical care to approximately 270,000 patients and veterinary services to more than 38,000 animals.

Additionally, PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP has provided critical infrastructure developments to host nations through the completion of more than 180 engineering projects.