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MEDNEWS Dec 11, pg. 4
FARAH PROVINCE, Afghanistan -
Reviewing the control panel of an
infant incubator that was given to the
local Farah Hospital, U.S. Navy Lt.
Cmdr. Dante Villecco, a certified
registered nurse anaesthetist in the
Forward Surgical Team located on 
Forward Operating Base Farah,
Afghanistan, teaches Magul, the 
head midwife at the hospital along with 
nine other midwives on her staff, how
to use this life-saving machine,
Dec. 1, 2009. (Photo by Master Sgt.
Tracy DeMarco, Farah Provincial
Reconstruction Team/ Released)  

PRT Medics Incubate Farah Midwives’ Patient Care Knowledge

By Master Sgt. Tracy DeMarco, Farah Provincial Reconstruction Team

FARAH PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Keeping a premature baby warm is vital to its survival, a task Farah Hospital midwives are more prepared to accomplish.

Ready with an Afghan interpreter, U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dante Villecco, a certified registered nurse anaesthetist with the Forward Surgical Team along with Cmdr. Harvey Wilds, the commander of the Provincial Reconstruction Team medical team met with 10 local midwives to teach them how to use an infant incubator.

The machine was donated to the hospital at least two years ago by a previous PRT and works fine. But, it was collecting dust in a storage room simply because the staff couldn't read the instructions written in English.

"After you plug the machine in," Villecco said, "then the power button is right here," he said as he demonstrated turning the incubator on for his students.

Then Jamili, an interpreter with the PRT, translated Villecco's instructions and the midwives nodded their heads.

Step by step, Villecco taught the women how to fill the machine with clean water, open the incubator to place the baby inside, attach a   temperature monitor to the patient, and also how to sanitize the     equipment. The 10 midwives, two of which were pregnant, listened intently and took turns moving to the front to see each action.

"Why do we have to put water in?" asked Magul, the head midwife at Farah Hospital who has worked there for 12 years.

Jamili translated her question and Cmdr. Wilds explained that the water is to keep the air in the incubator moist because premature babies' skin is very susceptible to drying out.

The main objective of the PRT medical team is to facilitate capacity building within the health sector, which is defined by training sessions such as this. Once Cmdr. Wilds realized that the equipment existed at the hospital, he arranged to have the machine transported to the Forney Clinic on Forward Operating Base Farah so his medical team could test it and organize a class for the staff that is most likely to use it – the midwives.

"They asked very particular questions," he said, "with actual patients in mind."

"If we have a patient with hypothermia and we have a premature baby, which child should we put in the incubator first?" Magul asked.

Once Lt. Cmdr. Villecco finished teaching all the necessary parts and techniques for the incubator, some of the women walked through the entire start-up process for the machine repeating Villecco's instructions in Dari out loud as they performed each step while the other midwives watched.

"Overall, the class went very well," said Wilds. "I was impressed with the number of attendants as well as their interest and involvement.

Before the women left the clinic, Wilds encouraged them to let him know if there were any other equipment items located at the hospital that the staff is unfamiliar with. He ensured them that the PRT would be more than happy to set up more training classes. In the near future, the PRT will host classes for an elecrtocautery tool and a ventilator that would both be used in surgery.

In the coming week, Jamili will translate the operator's manual for the incubator and a new Dari or Pashto version will be delivered to the hospital along with the incubator.